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Deep-Sea Dumbo Octopus Hatchlings Look And Act Like Adults

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A video of a baby dumbo octopus emerges. Scientists say the rare creature provides insight into the early lifecycle of cirrate mollusks.

The video showing the hatching of a baby dumbo octopus accompanies a new paper published by scientists from Bonn, Germany and the United States, on their study of a rare type of deep-sea creature called genus Grimpoteuthis or the dumbo octopus.

The dumbo octopus was named after the fictional Disney character, Dumbo, a flying elephant with big ears.

The dumbo octopus has floppy, ear-like fins popping out of its head that it uses to swim or propel itself forward on the sea floor.

Discovery Of The Dumbo Octopus

The video shows the baby dumbo octopus hatching from its egg and swimming in a glass container with water. It is the first documented hatching of a dumbo octopus. It was taken in 2005 by biologist Tim Shank, one of the study coauthors and researchers on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expedition that discovered the dumbo octopus at that time.

The researchers were exploring a chain of underwater mountains called the New England and Corner Rise Seamounts off the U.S. East Coast when their remotely operated vehicle fished a cold-water coral from a depth of almost 2,000 meters under the sea. The coral contained eggs of the dumbo octopus. The hatchling was revealed from one of the eggs from the coral.

"It was the first time that such a deep-sea octopus was observed directly during hatching", says Dr. Liz Shea, a mollusk curator from the Delaware Museum of Natural History.

The octopus hatchling measures only 3 centimeters and has fins at the end of its mantle that resembles elephant ears.

The octopus hatchling appeared fully-formed when it hatched, according to the study.

Scientists further observed the dumbo octopus through high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging. The MRI scans showed that the internal organs of the dumbo octopus are located on its bulbous head.

"As the video by Tim shows, the dumbo octopus immediately moves like an adult animal about ten times its size", says Dr. Alexander Ziegler from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Ecology of the University of Bonn, one of study authors.

Behaving Like Adults

Using the MRI scans, the scientists created an interactive 3D model of the internal organs of the baby dumbo octopus. They discovered that the dumbo octopus has a nervous system that is similar to an adult, and a large yolk sac which serves as a source of nutrient for the hatchling until it can feed itself.

"While the octopuses we know from shallow waters usually care for their brood, such behavior does not seem to impart any evolutionary advantage to deep-sea dumbo octopuses", explained Dr. Ziegler.

This discovery is crucial in the study of rare cirrate mollusks and in the visual explorations of the deep sea.

Dumbo octopuses are rare, with only 20 known species. They live at depths of more than 2 miles below the sea surface. A typical dumbo octopus is only 8 to 12 inches. Female dumbo octopuses lay eggs at any time in rocks, shells, or corals to protect the eggs from predators. The octopod eggs come in a variety of sizes, colors, and textures.

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