The mysteries of the ocean never fail to amaze us, with new creatures appearing all the time. Some of them can look pretty terrifying, like the Vampire Squid or the Giant Squid. Others, like a very special new species of octopus that was discovered in Monterrey Bay, California, a few years ago, are just flat out cute.
Opisthoteuthis "adorabilis" flapjack octopus from the Monterey Submarine Canyon. Photo by Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)
In 2015, Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute were incredibly excited to find a species of octopus that had never been documented before. Just outside MBARI is the Monterey Submarine Canyon, which extends over 1 mile deep to the ocean floor and is host to an astonishing variety of marine life living at various depths.
When researchers caught a glimpse of this little octopus, which is about the size of a human fist when fully grown, they had a hard time restraining themselves. Stephanie Bush, a postdoctoral researcher at MBARI, told Science Friday: “As someone who’s describing this species, you get to pick what the specific name is. One of the thoughts I had was making it Opisthoteuthis ‘adorabilis’ because they are just… really cute.”
— Monterey Bay Aquarium (@MontereyAq) April 13, 2016
Fans of Finding Nemo will be delighted to see the pictures, as the Flapjack Octopus (Opisthoteuthis californiana) that was the basis for Pearl is in the same family as this new discovery. Just like its cousin, the “adorabilis” is also incredibly flexible and can squish itself flat like a pancake.
What else is so special about this little guy? Well, to start with, Stephanie Bush told Science Friday that “they have really large eyes for their size for their body.” They also have very special webbing between their eight tentacles, which makes them look like a beautiful parachute floating along in the sea. Those cute little “ear” flaps on their mantle are actually fins that they use to steer.
When the Monterey Bay Aquarium got several of these cute octopuses from the wild, they wanted to learn as much about them as they could, which meant figuring out what this species likes. Bret Grasse was the aquarium manager tasked with helping make a great home for these sea creatures.
— Monterey Bay Aquarium (@MontereyAq) June 13, 2016
As Grasse told Science Friday, the Opisthoteuthis needed “a nice, deep tank so they could swim around.” To illuminate the tanks, they used red lights, because as Grasse said: “red light dissipates the fastest in sea water,” so it doesn’t bother their eyes. This octopus needs very cold water to survive, so they even specially chill its tanks. With this five-star sea hotel, it isn’t surprising that their octopus felt safe enough to reproduce, laying a bunch of eggs.
A year after the MBARI team was still studying their visitors, the E/V Nautilus, an ocean exploration vessel, caught live footage of an adorable octopus in the wild at a very shallow level. One of the Nautilus team joked that its cute fins “looked like Dumbo ears”!
Other people who have seen the octopus think it looks more like the ghost from that great American classic arcade game Pac-Man. Still others see more resemblance with the cute creatures from Pokemon.
Whatever people see, they can all agree that amazing discovery completely deserves its name: adorabilis, it most certainly is.
— The Independent (@Independent) June 18, 2015