Nearly everyone knows the octopus from Finding Nemo that says “you guys made me ink.” Well, I always just thought of that octopus as any other one I’d seen before, until now that is. A day or two ago, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a video of a “shy” Dumbo Octopus, and I immediately got curious. Dumbo Octopus? What is that? Well, not only is it the same type of octopus as the one off of Finding Nemo, but it also has some pretty unique characteristics as well. Some of you may already know about this type of octopus, but if you’re like me and didn’t, then you might want to keep reading.
There actually isn’t much known about Grimpoteuthis spp, but what we do know is quite fascinating. It is one of the seventeen species of the Umbrella Octopus class, but dubbed The Dumbo Octopus because of the way its “ear-like” fins protrude from its body, giving it a Walt Disney’s Dumbo the Elephant kind of look. One of the rarest kinds of octopi in the ocean, these little guys live extremely close to the seafloor in places like New Zealand, Australia, Monterey Bay, California; Oregon, the Philippines, and Papua, New Guinea, in waters as deep as 3,000 to 4,000 meters or 9,800 to 13,000 feet with some living even deeper. Like most creatures that live so close to the seafloor, the Dumbo Octopus can flush the top layer of its skin which simply means they can make it translucent. However, this isn’t even one of the most interesting things about it.
Some of the unique features of the Dumbo Octopus that are unlike any other of its kind are its mouth, methods of mobilization, and reproductive habits. The mouth of the octopus is bizarre. It has an opening similar to that of a mollusc which “allows it to swallow prey whole.” This spares it from having to “tear and grind” the tiny crustaceans, bivalves, and worms it calls prey
and dinner. As for the way it moves, the Dumbo has a special system. It not only has learned to propel itself away from predators by “shooting water through [its] funnel,” but it also uses its distinct shape as well. Since this octopus is an Umbrella, it has webbing between its tentacles which it uses to its advantage. The Dumbo’s eyes are on the side of its body because it is easy prey for “sharks killer whales, tuna, cephalopods, and predatory animals,” so by expanding and contracting the tentacle webbing as well as by moving its “ear-like fins,” the Dumbo Octopus has a pretty good chance of escaping its attackers.
Perhaps the most interesting characteristic of the Dumbo Octopus is the way it reproduces. Extremely different from all other species of octopi, female Dumbos do not have a specific mating season. They are able to bear eggs through the entirety of their maturation process, laying them under small rocks and shells on the seafloor. or tucking them in their tentacle webbing and carrying them. Males have an extra “tentacle-like structure” which carries their sperm. It is believed that this means they can mate with a female at any given moment and the female can make the sperm last over a longer period of time.
Unfortunately, the odds of a human seeing one of these octopuses in their lifetime is slim to none because of how deep into the ocean they live. However, if you are fortunate enough to ever see one of these tiny, intriguing creatures, pay attention because they have a variety of characteristics. Dumbo Octopi can be short, yellow, brown, or giant. They can have a spine, suckers, and different colored fins. Also, they can be a bit camera shy.