Footage shows 'dumbo' octopod hatchling looks like a miniature adult

By Brooks Hays  |  Feb. 19, 2018 at 5:01 PM
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Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Scientists have for the first time published footage of a 'dumbo' octopod hatchling. The documentation, shared this week in the journal Current Biology, proves the young octopods look very much like the adult version of the species.

Dumbo octopods are a group of Cirrate octopods occupying the deep sea. They comprise the largest invertebrates found at the lowest depths of the ocean, and they're named for their fins, which recall elephant ears.

The hatchling was originally captured in egg form during the Deep Atlantic Stepping Stones expedition carried out in 2005. Using a remote-controlled submersible, scientists collected and brought several tan, golf ball-sized orbs from the deep sea floor to the surface.

"With each successive collection, it became apparent that this was some sort of an egg case," Tim Shank, marine scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said in a news release. "The first few were open and empty, the next two contained a white gelatinous mass within, and the final collection yielded the specimen described in the paper."

Video footage of the hatchling revealed the octopod emerging from its shell. Though captured more than a decade ago, scientists only recently described the discovery in a scientific journal.

In addition to documenting the hatching process, scientists also filmed the specimen swimming in a bucket of water. The baby octopod was also taken to the lab for advanced imaging.

"The virtual exploration and 3D reconstruction of the internal anatomy of this deep-sea creature was particularly revealing," said Alexander Ziegler, a researcher at the University of Bonn in Germany. "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."

As most dumbo octopus species are identified using adult characteristics, scientists were only able to determine the specimen's genus, Grimpoteuthis.

The discovery has offered scientists an improved understanding of the early life cycle of dumbo octopods. The newly described footage suggests young dumbo octopods are hatched fully formed. The findings could help scientists more easily differentiate between dumbo octopod species in the future.

"We knew that adults are predominantly benthopelagic, that females lay eggs on the ocean bottom, and that octopod eggs come in a variety of sizes, colors, and textures," Shea said. "Our work connects the dots between a particular egg, a particular coral, and a particular octopod."

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