WHOI Scientists Study Rare Deep Sea Find

The dumbo hatchling shortly after leaving the egg capsule, which is barely two centimeters long. Photo: Timothy M. Shank, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

WOODS HOLE – Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution were part a team which studied a rare find from the deep sea.

Deep-sea dumbo octopuses, which have large eyes and round fins that resemble elephant ears, are one of the most mysterious creatures of the deep because they inhabit the largely inaccessible depths of the ocean floor.

For the first time, an international research team was given the chance to witness and film a dumbo octopus hatch from its egg in 2005 during an expedition to explore a chain of underwater mountains off the U.S. East Coast.

Their findings were recently published in the journal “Current Biology.”

The octopus egg was brought onboard a research vessel attached to a cold-water coral branch, which is where adult females prefer to hatch their egg cases. The coral was gathered by a remotely operated vehicle about 2,000 meters below the surface.

The egg hatched in a container of seawater and the octopus, which was only about 2 centimeters, started moving its fins in synchrony just like adults.

The specimen was also studied with a high-resolution magnetic resonance scanner which discovered a large yolk sac to provide nutrients until the young octopus can gather food on its own.

Scientists were also surprised how much the structure of internal organs and nervous system resembled that of adults.

The study emphasizes the importance of protecting the deep-sea habitat and corals, which are still largely unknown.

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