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Dumbo Octopus Gives Rare View [Video]

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Image courtesy of YouTube/Corps of Exploration

New, stunning video from a deep-sea vehicle reveals a rare view of the Dumbo octopus.

Don’t let the name fool you—the Dumbo octopus (Grimpoteuthis) is no dummy. And those protrusions on the side of its body are not—like its cartoon namesake flaunts—big ears, but rather fins, which help it swim above the seafloor.

This strange and wonderfuloctopus was recorded by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in the depths of the Caribbean on a summer-long expedition by the Corps of Exploration aboard the research vessel the Nautilusthe Houston Chronicle reported earlier this week.

The Dumbo is a cirrate octopus, a type of deep-sea octopus that has thin strands (cerri) that extend from the bottom side of its arms along with the suckers. Its substantial fleshy web is responsible for this genus’s other nickname, the umbrella octopus. There are more than a dozen different species in the genus. They live in many places around the globe and can survive at depths up to (or down to) several thousand meters below sea level.

The team aboard the Nautilus uses red laser dots to estimate the size of objects it sees in the ROV’s video feed. And this Dumbo proved to be a big one. It was estimated to be a whopping meter long—a good five times the size of an average Dumbo.

The team, led by Robert Ballard, of Titanic-discovery fame, has been exploring the vast Gulf of Mexico. In their summer expedition, which began in June off the coast of Florida and has taken them as far as Belize, they have encountered many unusual ocean creatures. This octopus was spotted during their most recent stop this month, near Windward Passage, between Cuba and Haiti. Next month, they will explore seamounts and underwater volcanoes to the east and south. You can follow along with their discoveries live online—and even ask questions of the scientists in real time. You might just spot another strange cephalopod of the deep.

Read more about other strange deep-sea cephalopods in Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature In the Sea.

Illustration courtesy of Ivan Phillipsen

Katherine Harmon Courage About the Author: Katherine Harmon Courage is a freelance writer and contributing editor for Scientific American. Her book Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature In the Sea is out now from Penguin/Current. Follow on Twitter @KHCourage.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Percival 2:03 pm 08/28/2014

    Terrific video of a rarely seen animal, but I would have preferred less voice-over ooh- and aah-ing in favor of more speculation on or even explanation of its behavior. Was it hunting? Looking for a mate? Was it just curious about the ROV, or maybe even deliberately showing off for the camera? It sure *seemed* to be doing its best to exhibit as much of its external anatomy as possible. Was it a threat display?

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  2. 2. Wayne Williamson 3:32 pm 08/29/2014

    That was really cool…Thanks for sharing….

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