A new species of octopus has the internet gushing. The deep-sea animal is being described as adorable and ghost-like, taking on the nickname “Casper.” Little is known about the octopus, and its discovery was an accident.
On Feb. 27, 2016, NOAA’s Deep Discoverer, a deep-sea exploring robot, found Casper about 4,290 meters beneath the surface of the ocean near Hawaii. According to HNGN, that depth makes it the deepest sighting of an incirrate octopus, and its unique set of characteristics indicate it’s likely a new species.
“As the ROV [remotely operated vehicle] was traversing a flat area of rock interspersed with sediment at 4,290 meters [about 14,074 feet], it came across a remarkable little octopod sitting on a flat rock dusted with a light coat of sediment. The appearance of this animal was unlike any published records and was the deepest observation ever for this type of cephalopod.”
Examiner reports that the octopus lacks pigment, which gives it its ghost-like white appearance. Casper is an incirrate, meaning that it doesn’t have fins on its sides or finger-like cirri on its arms that are sometimes found on other deep-sea octopuses.
That’s unusual according to the NOAA. Incirrate octopuses have, until now, only been found at depths of 4,000 meters and above. Cirrates, on the other hand, have been found at depths of over 5,000 meters.
The new octopus species is different from shallow water incirrates as well, with unusual characteristics like suckers in only one series on one side of its arms and a lack of muscle tone.
As the NOAA wrote, “the appearance of this animal was unlike any published records and was the deepest observation ever for this type of cephalopod.”
Likewise, the little octopus’ lack of pigment means it cannot change colors, a trait that the common octopus can accomplish. Casper was a bonus discovery for the mission, which had a very different purpose from finding new species.
“The dive was planned to obtain baseline information on whether a connection exists between Necker Island and Necker Ridge, a narrow feature that extends over 400 miles and protrudes past the current exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the United States.”
The first priority of the mission was to collect geographic samples so the scientists could see if they had the same composition as samples obtained on Necker Island. In the end, the ghost-like octopus stole the show. Mashable rhetorically asked the internet, “can we keep him?”, after the discovery.
The NOAA is planning to combine notes of its sighting with other incirrate observations by a German cruise in the deep Eastern Pacific to produce a scientific manuscript for publication. The new octopus species, if it is truly new, will easily find a place in people’s hearts. A full video of the discovery can be viewed below.
[Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images]