It’s been said that the dumbo octopus is the cutest octopus in the world. That claim might be debatable, but there’s not alot of competitive species for that title among Octopoda so don’t bet against it.
The genus Grimpoteuthis (commonly referred to as the dumbo octopuses) is comprised of fourteen species, all of which have fins on the sides of their mantle (body) which call to mind a resemblence to Walt Disney’s “Dumbo”, the flying elephant. The fins aren’t ears nor are they wings, although they move to help the animal stear, steady, and maneuver itself. However, the primary means of propulsion is accomplished by siphoning in water and expelling it out the back like a jet.
The tentacles of all the species within Grimpoteuthis are webbed, like duck feet, earning these fourteen species the type species name, Cirroteuthis umbellata, a reference to its umbrella-like appearance when the tentacles are extended out radially.
Dumbos live in the deep, open ocean in the hadal zone, so deep that sunlight doesn’t penetrate. Researchers recently found a couple of dumbos in the Java Trench, a deep sea feature of the Indian Ocean, one at a record depth of 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) below the surface. No other species of octupus has been found this deep.
Dumbos live on a diet of worms and crustaceans, all of which are swallowed whole. Unlike other octopi, they do not eject ink as a defense. They do have a unique feature: transparent “patches” near their eyes detect faint, unfocused light. Since they live at depths where sunlight does not reach, it’s not clear what the purpose of these patches are. The creatures have a lifespan of three to five years, which is aided by drinking a glass of wine everyday, refraining from tobacco use, and always wearing a mask in public. (Just kidding – wanted to see if anyone is paying attention). Oh, and they can change color to camouflage themselves.
Okay, it’s video time! First up, a NOAA research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, without audio (1:37):
Next, the E/V Nautilus with ROV Hercules explores Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, featuring the understudy cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (2:27):
Lastly, the same understudy cast of MST3K finds another dumbo or two (6:18):
Type species: Cirroteuthis umbellata
Species: several, currently 14 known.
Question of the night: Multiple choice questionaire: (1) Squid or Octopi? (2) For dinner or a fascinating pet?