Elusive Dumbo Octopus Takes a Bow in Gulf of Mexico

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Last month, a crew from the Nautilus Live expedition, which is mapping seafloor topography in and around the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, saw something unexpected on a camera housed in a remotely operated vehicle: a dumbo octopus.

No camera-hoggy Disney elephant, the dumbo octopus is considered a rare sight, making its living in deeper waters than any other species of octopus -- anywhere from 9,800 to 13,000 feet down. Called dumbo thanks to flaps (which are actually fins) close to its eyes that look like ears, the creature simply appeared in view, to the delight and surprise of the Nautilus Live scientists.

As seen in the video, laser dots framed on the octopus told the scientists that this reclusive creature was about 3 feet long -- much larger than others of its kind, which usually top out at about 1 foot long.

Nautlius Live notes that this type of octopus often just drifts, as seen here, spreading itself out in the shape of an umbrella. Scientists surmise that this is a pose it adopts when feeding, though they're unsure of the details of its feeding strategy.

Others of the dumbo species spend the vast majority of their time sitting on the seafloor, safe from the paparazzi. Luckily for the scientists on this day, the right kind of dumbo drifted their way.

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