Floating Trash In Hawaii Carries ‘Pea-Sized’ Baby Octopuses

A large blue octopus sits on the floor of a giant tank on display at an aquarium.
glucosala / Pixabay

Marine biologists have just made one of the most adorable discoveries as they were working in Hawaii.

While studying Hawaii’s coral reefs, scientists with Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park on the Big Island noticed two rust-orange colored critters with eight tentacles floating on plastic debris. Upon closer inspection, Fox News reported that they discovered the creatures to be miniature versions of octopuses.

“During a surface break from coral reef monitoring our Marine Biologists noticed something small when they picked up several items of floating plastic marine debris. This beautiful little octopus was found among the debris,” the park posted on Facebook at the time of the discovery in August.

They scooped up the “pea-sized” marine animals and placed them in a plastic container full of water. On their next dive, the scientists safely returned the octopuses to “a small protected space” in the ocean. Sallie Beavers, a marine biologist with the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, told the Associated Press that one “squirted a tiny bit of ink” upon its release, Fox News reported.

The group later confirmed that they found a second octopus attacking — and killing — a crab on top of more debris.

While the tiny cephalopods were discovered a few months ago, images of the creatures went viral after the U.S. Department of the Interior posted a photo of one on Twitter this week.

Beavers believes that the octopuses were from a species commonly found off Hawaii, likely either day octopus or night octopus. According to Fox News, these types of octopuses can weigh up to 12 pounds in their adult years, with tentacle spans of 3 feet. They have translucent skin that can “transform and blend” into their environment, which is usually coral or rocks. This “camouflage-like ability” makes them accomplished hunters, using their venom to prey on crabs, small crustaceans, and other fish.

According to a blog post by the University of Hawaii Waikiki Aquarium, the creatures’ salivary glands produce a toxin that paralyzes the prey that they are holding tight via their suckers, and additional secretions containing digestive enzymes “liquefy the flesh.” The octopus then uses its “parrot-like beak” to tear off small bites of the meat.

The post also described octopuses as “probably the most intelligent of invertebrates,” and noted that they have shown the ability to learn from experience.

The small creatures have a very short lifespan of about a year, during which they only breed once. The babies typically hide under logs or other floating debris until they have reached a few months old.