The creature’s observations, captured at nearly 4.3 miles deep in the Indian Ocean using land-based cameras – autonomous camera systems that are released from a ship and sink to the ocean floor – are thought to be the deepest octopus sightings never filmed.
The researchers believe the creature is probably a new species of Grimpoteuthis, or “Dumbo octopus”, a genus of deep-water umbrella octopuses named for their fins, reminiscent of the ears of the Disney cartoon elephant.
Over the course of a year and a half, as part of the Five Deeps expedition, scientists have visited the deepest places in the world.
Marine ecologist Alan Jamieson, who led the team that made the discovery, told CNN that after completing more than 100 dives, the team had an idea of what types of wildlife, including fish and shellfish, would have observed on the seabed – but they were shocked when they noticed the octopus.
During the dive last April, he said, “as usual, we shot much of the same stuff, but then suddenly in the middle of a dive close to 6,000 meters, this Dumbo octopus only flies by the camera.”
“Then two days later, we are doing it slightly deeper, at 7000 meters, and the camera is only on the seabed for four minutes. And this thing comes out of the darkness, which has just crawled up to the cameras – a another Dumbo octopus, “Jamieson, CEO of deep-water exploration company Armatus Oceanic, told CNN.
Jamieson said the new depth extended the most reliable octopus record, giving us an idea of what creatures go all the way to the bottom of the ocean.
“It shows that they are still surprised to do with large animals. Very often we hear about new species and tend to be small worms and small crustaceans,” he said, adding: “This is a great big octopus.”
Jamieson told CNN that he hoped the discovery would challenge people’s perceptions of deep sea creatures, which are often considered frightening and strange monsters.
“I like the fact that it challenges people’s perceptions of what deep-sea animals are like,” he said.
“This is just a cute little octopus doing what octopuses do. There’s nothing particularly strange about it. So hopefully people might experience greater attachment to very deep water than the scary, horrible, strange environment that was thought to be, “He said.
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