NOAA’s exploration ship Okeanos Explorer is back on the job in the Hawaiian Archipelago, and on its very first dive of the season, encountered a cute deep-sea octopus entirely new to science.
For obvious reasons, many suggestions have already been made that the new creature should be named Casper. Encountered at over 4,000 meters down (13,120 feet) northeast of Necker Island, the little octopus was sitting all by itself on a flat rock at 4,290 meters.
According to Michael Vecchione of the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service and National Systematics Laboratory, unlike the well-known and also adorable deep-sea dumbo octopus that have been recorded at depths exceeding 5,000 meters, this new octopus has no fins on the side of its body nor projections called cirri associated with its suckers (you can see both fins and cirri in this dumbo octopus video from Okeanos Explorer’s expedition off Puerto Rico last fall). It’s much more like the octopuses we know from shallower waters. Yet none of those has ever been recorded deeper than 4,000 meters.
Unlike most cephalopods, which are well known for their amazing powers of disguise thanks to their color-changing chromatophores, this little octopus appeared to lack any of the pigment cells and seemed a lot less beefy than its muscular shallow-water kin. In addition to being likely undescribed, it may even belong to an entirely new genus, the next rank up from species.