First video of adorable baby ‘Dumbo’ octopod emerges

20 Feb 2018

An adult Dumbo octopod. Image: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Programme, Oceano Profundo 2015

A video of an octopod that bears an uncanny resemblance to a lovable Disney character has been released for science.

Footage of the ‘Dumbo’ octopod (Cirrothauma murrayi) has been released for the first time, revealing an adorable creature that looks almost identical to an adult version of Dumbo, just a lot smaller.

Named after the famous Disney elephant because of its big, flapping, ear-like fins, the octopod is believed to be a member of the Grimpoteuthis family.

Detailing its findings in a paper published to Current Biology, a team led by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation said that the species of the creature still remains unclear.

That’s because species descriptions are typically based on mature adult specimens, often including features that are likely to change as an individual grows and matures.

The Dumbo octopod was first observed all the way back in 2005 in the Atlantic Ocean during an underwater expedition of the New England and Corner Rise Seamount chains.

After returning with some samples, the team found what looked like tan-coloured golf balls attached to coral branches, later revealed to be eggs.

While most were empty or contained a lifeless gelatinous mass, the final collection yielded the specimens detailed in this new paper.

Quick learner

After transferring the samples to a cold room for storage, Tom Shank of the research team found that one of the unbroken egg cases had suddenly cracked, with the hatchling just about visible.

Once fully emerged, the octopod was filmed swimming in a small bowl for 10 minutes, before its internal structure was examined using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

“The virtual exploration and 3D reconstruction of the internal anatomy of this deep sea creature was particularly revealing,” said study co-author Alexander Ziegler.

“I was impressed by the complexity of the central nervous system and the relative size of fins and the internal shell. However, for me as a zoologist, the most interesting aspect of our discovery remains the close interaction between the Dumbo egg and the deep sea coral host.”

With all of the necessary appendages and internal abilities to sense and catch prey the moment they’re born, the Dumbo octopod is one of the most competent hatchlings around.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic