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Surprisingly Not-so-dumb Facts About the Dumbo Octopus

Facts about the Dumbo Octopus
The Dumbo octopus gets its name from Walt Disney's famous cartoon character, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, because of its ear-like fins that resemble the ears of the Disney character. Find out more such interesting facts about this unique octopus, in this AnimalSake post.
Sharon Joseph
Last Updated: Aug 12, 2017
Dumbo octopuses are pelagic animals that can flush the transparent layer of their skin, whenever they wish to.
Octopuses belonging to the genus Grimpoteuthis are known as Dumbo octopuses, and are one of the rarest species. They are bathyal sea creatures living at extreme ocean depths, and are therefore hard to spot. Dumbo octopuses are members of the umbrella octopus family Opisthoteuthidae, which are known for their unique swimming pattern; they swim with an umbrella-like look to their mantle. They are also called jellyhead, or winged octopus, probably due to their unusual fins that protrude from the top of their mantle.
Scientific Classification
Kingdom : Animalia
Phylum : Mollusca
Class : Cephalopoda
Order : Octopoda
Family : Opisthoteuthidae
Genus : Grimpoteuthis
Species : 14
Physical Features
» Dumbo octopuses can grow up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) in length, and their eyes measure around 12 mm in diameter.
» The largest Dumbo octopus ever found weighed about 13 pounds and measured around 6 feet in length, although the size of most species of this octopus is generally smaller.
» This octopus has a soft, semi-gelatinous body, which helps it adapt to its deep-water habitat. Besides, it also allows the octopus to move freely.
» They have eight tentacles that are connected to each other by 'webbing'.
» They are cirrate octopuses (species that live in deep-water habitat), that have two fins and an internal cartilaginous shell that is 'U' or 'V' in shape. Their fins are dark brown in color.
» They have one single row of suckers on each arm, as well as bristle-like hair called 'cirri', generally one pair for each sucker, which help in searching for prey. The 'bristles' also help the octopus in catching the food. The suckers are brown in color with a hint of yellow.
» Unlike other octopuses, Dumbos do not have ink sacs (which are used to expel a cloud of dark ink for confusing the predators).
» The males and females differ not only in their size, but also in their sucker patterns.
» Dumbo octopuses have several means of locomotion. They are graceful swimmers and move through the water by flapping their two ear-like fins, or throbbing their webbed tentacles. They also expand and contract their webbed arms, or squirt water through their funnels to propel, or escape from predators. They use these methods simultaneously, or one at a time.
» Since sunlight doesn't reach the deep ocean layers, it is believed that Dumbo octopuses have poor eyesight, and can recognize only bioluminescent flashes.
» Not much is known about the habitat of this octopus. As mentioned, they are pelagic animals, i.e. they live in the pelagic oceanic zone, which means open sea. They live deep down in the ocean at depths ranging from 3,000 to 4,000 meters, with some living as deep as 7,000 meters below the surface of the ocean, close to the hydrothermal vent fields or geyser.
Tropical Crab
» The food they consume is found on the ocean floor. Their diet comprises marine creatures like shrimp, crabs, worms, bivalves, snails, pelagic copepods, small fish, and other crustaceans.
» Unlike other cephalopods, this deep-sea octopus swallows its prey, as it does not have a radula (which is a hard, toothy tongue used for scraping or tearing prey.)
» Owing to their extreme habitat, not much is known about their reproductive cycle. Some reports say that, the females have laid eggs during different stages of development. This led to the conclusion that they can lay eggs throughout the year with no specific breeding season.
» The male octopus has an enlarged segment on one of its arms which transfers sperms into the mantle cavity of the females, during copulation.
» The eggs are comparatively larger and have a casing, which hardens in water. The females lay their eggs underneath the shells or rocks.
As mentioned earlier, very little is known about this fascinating octopus that dwells in the deepest parts of the ocean. Researchers find it challenging to study them because of the remoteness of their habitat. More than 14 species of the Dumbo octopus have been identified so far, with some reports saying they are bioluminescent, meaning they emit light or glow in the dark. We hope researchers come up with a better way to study these exclusively winged creatures and publish more such interesting facts about them, at the earliest.