This Sea Octopus Fights Foes by Expanding Like a Circus Tent

The team aboard exploration vessel (E/V) Nautilus are no strangers to rare and amazing underwater finds. It’s literally the ship’s scientific purpose. This big red octopus has only been seen a handful of times before. The ROV recorded the interaction about a mile below the ocean’s surface. At first, the team mistakes it for a Dumbo octopus, which is another species with flaps on its head that look like the Disney elephant’s giant ears. This one is more like a circus tent as the sea octopus spreads itself out in what is likely a defensive posture. As one of the observers says, “he wants us to know he’s too big to slurp.” 

This octopus is in the family Cirroteuthidae, but the team isn’t sure about the exact species. There are even undescribed animals in this group and it could easily be one that scientists haven’t named yet. Based on the laser guides, which are four inches apart, the scientists estimate this octopus is over four feet long. In the five minute video, it alternates between spreading out into a tent and stretching into a torpedo shape. Truly a wild transition to watch. The shadow on the seafloor is eerie as well, with the eight arms illuminated by multiple light sources.

A large red octopus pulls itself into the shape of a torpedo

This sighting happened back in 2019, but came back into our feeds thanks to Twitter. The Nautilus team has come across these stranger creatures on at least one other occasion. In that video, it looks more like a floating bell pepper at first. It transforms from a blob into an octopus, boggling the minds of the scientists who watch critters in the deep sea for a living. No wonder ocean animals often inform the design of aliens

Featured Image: EVNautilus

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.

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