Incredibly Rare Footage of Dumbo Octopus Taken 10,000 Feet Under Sea Surface

Scientists have captured incredible, rare footage of a Dumbo octopus swimming off the coast of California.

Nicknamed for its oversize ear-like fins, the creatures normally swim far too deep for easy viewing. Among the deepest known octopuses, they normally swim around the seafloor at depths from 9,300 ft to 23,000 ft below the surface.

The Ocean Exploration Trust’s Nautilus expedition captured footage of the octopus about 10,800 ft deep at the Southeast Davidson Seamount, southwest of Monterey, California. The vessel has a number of remotely operated vehicles that can dive far below the surface. This footage was taken by the ROV Hercules.

This year’s six-month expedition has already found a bizarre gulper eel, which inflates its jaws like a balloon, and some ocean rocks that NASA thinks might have come from space. Cameras are filming much of the voyage, which you can watch online at Nautiluslive.org.

Expedition researchers were enthralled by the weird, cute octopus. “Oh my god. Is that a Dumbo?” one is heard asking as the creature emerges in the video. After a chorus of coos, one crew member joked the unusual cephalopod was a reward after all the sea pigs they’d watched.

Sea pigs, or Scotoplanes, are a group of sea cucumbers that look a little bit like large, gelatinous beetles. The Dumbo, on the other hand, is a genus of umbrella octopus that—in this case at least—is pretty adorable. Properly named Grimpoteuthis, the group of eight-tentacled animals are known for their large, floating appendages that look a little bit like ears.

But, as the video above reveals, there is far more to the Dumbo octopus than its “ears.” The camera-friendly creature opens its skirt at 0.24 to reveal its incredible tentacles. Stay tuned till 0.44 for the best shot. “Bye, you’re beautiful,” one crew member can be heard saying as the video ends.

"Any footage of deep-sea animal behavior is uncommon just because it is so hard to get down there," Nicholas Higgs, assistant director of the Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas, told Newsweek. But marine lovers have been lucky on the Dumbo front, with scientists releasing footage of one hatching earlier this year.

10_29_Dumbo Octopus The E/V Nautilus captured this rare image of a Dumbo octopus. E/V/Nautilus/Ocean Exploration Trust/Youtube

Although video footage of the creatures is unusual, the animals themselves aren't particularly rare, National University of Ireland Galway researcher Louise Allcock told Newsweek. Scientists know so little about the creatures, she said, "we can't put a name to most species."

"We don't spend nearly enough time exploring our oceans," she added. "They occupy 70 percent of the Earth's surface and are around [three miles] deep. We have looked at a tiny proportion of that."

Most Dumbo octopuses grow up to between 8 and 12 inches long, the Aquarium of the Pacific reports. Although this particular Dumbo looks graceful, the animals can be vicious. They pounce on their prey—certain crustaceans and bristle worms—and feast on it whole, as well as sucking up tasty morsels floating in the water.

This is the fourth annual voyage through the Eastern Pacific Ocean for the Trust, which funds the Nautilus alongside the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others.

The vessel has traveled through the waters of California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Hawaii. It will soon begin the final leg of this year’s trip: A journey through the submerged shorelines of the California Borderland area.

This article has been updated with comments from Louise Allcock and Nicholas Higgs.

Join the Discussion

Editor's Pick