The deepest recesses of the world’s oceans are probably full of cute stuff we don’t even know about yet. One of the undeniably precious deep sea creatures we do know about is the Dumbo octopus (Grimpoteuthis sp.), which was recently spotted around the Davidson Seamount, an inactive underwater volcanic mountain range off the coast of California. As these creatures live between 2 and 4 miles (3 and 6 kilometers) under the surface of the ocean, special equipment is required to find them, which is what researchers aboard the E/V Nautilus did with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) named Hercules.
The video of the Dumbo octopus, captured Oct. 23, 2018, sent the crew into paroxysms of delight that would make a Pomeranian puppy blush. Dumbos are very cute, but also a little spooky looking, as deep sea dwellers are wont to be. They have that look of somebody who forgot about the Halloween party until the last minute and came dressed as a ghost, covered in a white sheet and deep purple petticoats. Over a dozen species of Dumbo octopus have been described so far, and all of them have two oversized wing-like fins on either side of the body, which is why they’re named after the little flying elephant from the Disney movie.
But why do these cephalopods need the extra fins when they already have the standard-issue eight tentacles that other octopuses use to zip around the ocean? Dumbos spend nearly their whole life cycle on the seafloor, hunting for bivalves, worms and crustaceans. They don’t have ink like many other octopuses, so extreme speed and maneuverability is their main defense. Their “wings” help them escape sharks and other deep sea predators.
After spotting Dumbo octopus, the Nautilus ROV came across a huge octopus nesting ground, where over a thousand octopuses were hunkered down in the rocks, protecting their eggs.