New Species Alert : Octopus!

Whenever I see an article announcing a new species, it’s usually about some bacteria or slug. Not that they don’t deserve a spot in the ecosystem, but well, slugs are not exciting.

Octopuses definitely are! Not only are they smart, they are masters of disguise. Their cool appearance and unique behavior make them legendary and loved.

sour patch gummy worm...not a slug
Not a slug because no one would eat a slug unless they were starving. Many would eat a gummy worm.
Octopus drawing missing four legs
Octopuses are loved, shown here by kids with developing math skills and art talent. This octopus only has only four arms, drawn by Ian, although Alex likes to claim credit.

NEW SPECIES ALERT : OCTOPUS!

Dumbo octopus
Credit: NOAA OKEANOS EXPLORER Program, Gulf of Mexico 2014 Expedition

My enticing build-up is leading to the fact that there’s a new species of octopus! 

This adorable animal has flippers coming out the sides of its head! (the photo above was taken several years ago, but there is red tape involved when officially adding a new species.)

Scientists even named this octopus ‘Dumbo’ after the Disney character, Dumbo the elephant, who used his ears to fly. (I never saw this movie…did you?)

Let’s not confuse cute elephants with cute octopuses.

Of course, that would never happen, even though both species are highly intelligent! And adorable.

Not to mention that elephants are classified as mammalia and octopuses are cephalopods. 

Trunk Hugs Elephants
The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee I wrote an article about this fantastic organization for Highlights
Fins of dumbo octopus
courtesy Jesus Caceras

CEPHALOPODS...what the heck are they?

Octopuses (Yes this is the correct plural term…I looked it up!) are cephalopods, a small group of highly advanced animals (In Latin, Cephalopoda, means “head foot.”) to include eight-armed octopuses, ten-armed squids and cuttlefishes, and shelled chambered nautiluses.

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Cephalopods are always found in oceans, never lakes. (It’s great to find a concrete rule!) They were once one of the dominant life forms in the world’s oceans. Today there are only about 800 living species of cephalopods. (compare that with 32,000 living species of bony fish and 10,000 species of birds)

DUMBO THE OCTOPUS

With only 800 species of octopus, it’s pretty exciting to find a new one! The new species is technically a Grimpoteuthis, which is a member of the umbrella family, called Opisthoteuthidae. 

This family of octopus still has eight arms, like all octopuses. The difference is the webbing between their arms, resembling an umbrella. (I’m not going to take a picture of an umbrella. Umbrellas aren’t cute)

Dumbo octopuses are all found near the bottoms of deep oceans. Perhaps this is an adaption to help the octopus crawl along the seafloor. 

Webbing is useful for all octopuses to encase their prey, to keep it from escaping.

Dumbo octopus below, sideways view so the telltale flaps aren’t quite as noticeable.

Dumbo Octopus
NOAA OKEANOS EXPLORER Program, Oceano Profundo 2015; Exploring Puerto Rico's Seamounts, Trenches, and Troughs

Dumbo octopuses are 14 to 17 inches long. 

They’ve been captured on film ‘hopping’ from place to place on the seabed.

Not everything is scary in the ocean depths!

Dumbo octopus with ray and shrimp
Alan Jamiseon & Michale Vecchione Creative Commons licence
Dumbo octopus fins
FeMO Microbial Observatory

They have been sighted off the coasts of New Zealand, Australia, California, Oregon, Philippines, New Guinea, and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. (MA feels like an outlier to me)

 

See map (on right) with arrow designating some sightings.

Java Trench on ocean map
Latest sighting was in the Java Trench, 6900 meters deep. (Above for world map) Yellow dots on right for precise sighting locations
Graph of location sighting octopus
Jamieson, A.J., Vecchione, M. First in situ observation of Cephalopoda at hadal depths (Octopoda: Opisthoteuthidae: Grimpoteuthis sp.). Mar Biol 167, 82 (2020)

OCTOPUSES ARE HIGHLY INTELLIGENT

The octopus is considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates. They have the largest brain and are the only invertebrate to use tools. (This is a marker for intelligence, also exhibited by elephants, crows, and dolphins)

I am excited to report that I have an article in the October 202o issue of Faces magazine about crows and ravens!

An octopus named Otto was known to throw rocks and spray water at the bright overhead lights of his aquarium in order to short them out. He even cracked the glass in his tank!

In 2016, another octopus named Inky escaped from his tank at the National Aquarium of New Zealand.

Inky, the size of a basketball, managed to squeeze into a gap in its tank, slide across the floor and down a 164-foot-long drainpipe to the ocean. 

Inky is still at large today.

His ex-tank mate Blotchy, isn’t talking.

Inky the Octopus
WANTED: INKY

Octopuses are not only great escape artists, but are also curious, can develop unique personalities, and have been known to recognize individual faces.

Here’s a video of an octopus escaping from a sealed jar!

And another video of an octopus named Rambo, taking photographs of her visitors!

Do octopuses have red blood?

Obviously not, since I'm asking....

OCTOPUSES HAVE BLUE BLOOD

To survive in the deep ocean—where the water temperature is very low and not much oxygen is around—octopuses evolved a copper rather than an iron-based blood. The copper is more efficient at transporting oxygen under these conditions. Copper makes fireworks blue, too!
More about the colors of fireworks here!

INCREDIBLE CAMOUFLAGE

Who needs an invisibility cloak? (more on the magic of invisibility here)

Because octopuses live under intense predation pressure, they’ve evolved an effective and impressive camouflaging ability! They put chameleons to shame.

Special pigment cells in octopus skin give octopuses the power to change color, pattern and even textures on command, to match their surroundings. They can hide in plain sight!

THREE TYPES OF SPECIALIZED CELLS

The cells are muscle-controlled, expanding and contracting on command to help the animal blend in with its surroundings, or to communicate with other animals. The topmost cells are called chromatophores. They are dye- filled sacs with red, yellow brown or black colored ink.

The middle layer of cells are called iridophores. They create an array of glittering blues, greens, and golds. These cells don’t open and close but the octopus can change the angel of each cell to reflect light like a tiny mirror.

At the deepest skin layer are cells called leucophores. They can create a white shine. 

ARE OCTOPUSES COLOR-BLIND?

Yes or no?

YES!

It seems counterintuitive, but the colors aren't to attract mates so much as for camouflage. They don't need to impress each other!

Here’s the strange fact ; Octopuses are color-blind!

 

The octopus can also spray a cloud of black into obscure itself from an attacker. The ink even dulls the predator’s sense of smell, making the octopus more difficult to track. (Sharks, eels, and dolphins love to eat them) 

Fun video below, even with the typo.  We all make mistakes.

If necessary, they can sacrifice an arm and regrow it later. They also have venomous saliva, used more to subdue prey than as defense. 

Are all octopuses venomous?

YES!

All octopuses are venomous. Only one species, the blue-ringed octopus, found in the waters of Japan and Australia, has sufficient venom to be dangerous to man.

The fact that Inky the Octopus chose liberty and danger from sharks, eels, and dolphins over safety and hand feeding of his favorite foods at a national aquarium, made me boycott eating octopuses for dinner!

 

There’s even a World Octopus Day! (October 8th.) You could accuse me of poorly timing this post, but I can’t help when the new species are announced.

Have you ever eaten octopus?

Or here’s a better question, will you still eat octopuses after reading my post?

There is a correct answer here!

One guess as to what your answer should be!
Louie
Don't eat the Dumbos!
Dumbo octopus
Too cute to eat.
Safood
Less intelligent seafood options!

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68 thoughts on “New Species Alert : Octopus!”

  1. Great educational information about octopuses in general. It is so cool that they discovered a new species.

    Reply
  2. Love this! I just finished reading a great sci-fi book about sentient octopi, Children of Ruin–it’s a sequel to Children of Time, which featured sentient spiders. Both were excellent and did a great job of imagining how they would think and act.

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  3. This is one of the best yet. Looove octupuses and you went well beyond the superficial. Nice. Besides, you really had me hooked with the intro.

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  4. Wow! It is really cool to hear that they are still discovering new species. The world is a beautiful place. And I love the name Dumbo for this octopus. So fitting.

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  5. I love how educational all your posts are and how much time & research goes into each one! Thank you for sharing this blog post. I think it is crazy that we’re still discovering new species, even in today’s modern society. Just makes you think what else is in the deep dark depths of the ocean!

    Em x

    https://www.loveemblog.com

    Reply
  6. Oh wow! This is so cool! I did not know that a new species of octopus has been discovered! Thanks for sharing all the info about it! I’m always fascinated by sea life!

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  7. Great way to start today reading about a new species. Your posts are always amazing and this one was truly superb. I would still be afraid to see one in the wild if I was swimming. Louie is cute as always. Keep up the great work. Mike

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    • I am a goofy dog mom, without question. One of our boys thinks octopuses are ‘a little creepy,’ maybe because they’re so smart! I bet you’ve swam past an octopus and didn’t even realize it! Thanks.

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  8. Inky is still at large today.

    His ex-tank mate Blotchy, isn’t talking. – Still laughing 🙂 You do a great job mixing humor and science!

    Reply
  9. They are so fascinating! I love hearing about new creatures, There’s so much we still don’t know about the world.

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  10. This is soooooo exciting, I showed my wannabe marine biologist daughter your post and she LOVED it too. Octopuses are amazing creatures, aren’t they? Probably my favourite sea creature, after sea horses. Loved this post Sue, thank you so much for sharing 🙂 Lisa

    Reply
    • I’m SO excited that you showed your daughter my post and she liked it! Hurrah! I also love sea horses. I just read about a new species and definitely want to compile a few cool facts and pics. …I hate to write two posts in a row about new species, though. (Still new at blogging and unsure how to stagger science topics.) Thank you, Lisa!

      Reply
    • I’d love to have one, too. I doubt I’m enough of an expert on marine care to attempt it! It’s bad enough when a plant doesn’t make it. I’d be heartbroken if something happened to a pet octopus.

      Reply
  11. Wow, I really enjoyed reading this. Great information, the YouTube videos in the post are so helpful, learnt so much about Octopus. I was just WOW throughout the post. Thank you for sharing

    Reply
  12. Wow! So informative! And how cute is the Dumbo Octopus! I really enjoyed all the information you shared. Thank you 🙂

    Reply

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Susan Berk Koch
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