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The Rare Dumbo Octopus, Grimpoteuthis

I enjoy researching a wide variety of topics and I have professionally written for a number of different organisations around the world.



What Is a Dumbo Octopus?

A Dumbo octopus is a marine animal of the genus Grimpoteuthis, which is a genus of Umbrella octopus. It has been found that there are seventeen different species of Umbrella Dumbo octopi, referred to as "umbrella octopuses" because once they extend their webbed arms, they resemble an umbrella. They are called Dumbo because their lateral fins are said to resemble the elephant ears of Disney's Dumbo the elephant. The Dumbo octopus uses its ear-like fins to propel itself through the water and it uses its webbed arms for steering itself around.

The class of this octopus is called Cephalopoda, which is a large class of predatory molluscs comprising octopuses, squids, and cuttlefish. These creatures have distinct heads and large eyes with a ring of tentacles around a beaked mouth.
Living deep in the oceans, the Dumbo octopi live at depths of at least 4000m and deeper and they are known to be the deepest living of all known octopuses. Living at extreme depths means that Dumbo has adapted the ability to cope and survive in an environment devoid of sunshine and very cold waters.

Not much is known about the Dumbo octopus as it is rarely seen by humans. This is because the oceans are so vast and the octopi live their lives so deep down, suspended above the ocean floor. For this reason, the Dumbo octopus is rarely caught in fishing nets or traps.


What Is a Cephalopod?

The Dumbo octopus belongs to the class of Cephalopoda. The cephalopods are characterised by their multiple arms or tentacles, and all live in salt waters around the world and are split into the two subclasses of Coleoidea and Nautiloidea. The octopus, along with cuttlefish and squid, belongs to a subclass called Coleoidea which are soft-bodied cephalopods. Other cephalopods are in the subclass of Nautiloidea which means they have shells.
Octopus are classified as mollusks. This classification includes clams, oysters, snails, and other gastropods. Octopus in general is eight-armed cephalopods that do not have an external shell like many mollusks.

Nautilus, A Cephalopod From Subclass of Nautiloidea

Nautilus, A Cephalopod From Subclass of Nautiloidea

Dumbos' Eating Habits

These animals are benthopelagic, which means that they live and feed mainly but not exclusively, on the bottom of the ocean. Sometimes a Dumbo octopus will swim near the surface where they can feed on plankton. Being foraging predators they usually feast on small crustaceans, snails, worms and other deep sea small creatures they find on the bottom of the ocean. The Dumbo tends to pounce on prey and eat it whole because they have no teeth to bite.


How Do Dumbo Octopi Reproduce?

The Dumbo octopus has an unusual breeding capability and do not have a breeding season as such. During mating, a male octopus will insert his hectocotylus which is like a separate arm, into the female's mantle cavity where it deposits sperm packets.

Female Dumbo octopi will carry eggs at different stages of development and are able to store sperm for long periods of time. This means that she can transfer stored sperm to the more developed eggs when the conditions are suitable for her to reproduce. Because the female can store the sperm she continuously lays eggs in shells or under small rocks at the bottom of the ocean.

Dumbo octopuses are semelparous animals, which means once they have mated and reproduced they die. After a female octopus lays a clutch of up to 2000 eggs, she quits eating and by the time the eggs are ready to hatch, she will die. The male will die within a couple of months of mating.

The baby Dumbo octopi, upon hatching, will have fully developed eyes, a well-formed body, including tentacles and suckers and the strength to swim. The baby Dumbo will survive off an internal yolk sac that sustains them until it catches its first meal. The little cuties are born independent and ready and prepared to take care of themselves.

Dumbo Octopus Facts

The first Dumbo octopus was discovered in 2005 by a Tom Shank who was on the Deep Atlantic Stepping Stone expedition. At first sight Tom thought that these were small golf balls attached to the coral in the Northwest Atlantic, they turned out to be octopod eggs. Although these creatures spend their lives hovering about the sea floor they lay their eggs at the bottom of the ocean or in coral and rocks where the eggs will be attached.

Although Dumbos can also crawl across the seafloor using tentacles, their preferred method of movement is gliding through the water which they do by flapping their fins.

Their main predators are large marine mammals and fish which include sharks, killer whales and dolphins. However, because the Dumbo has little contact with predators they do not have an ink sac. They have little need for defence from predators but when they do need to escape a predator the octopus will propel itself through the water by flapping their ear-like fins. The Dumbo is also able to hide in the rocks or sea floor. Like other octopi, it is able to change colour and camouflage itself.

The Dumbo octopus does not have teeth like the common octopus and so can cause no harm by biting.

Due to their preference for extreme depths, this octopus is very rarely captured in fishing nets and do not seem threatened by human activities.

The largest Dumbo octopus found was recorded at 1.8 m which is 5 feet 9 inches long and weighed 13 lbs. Most species grow to an average 7-12 inches long.

The lifespan of a Dumbo is 3-5 years.

Rare white dumbo octopus was spotted and filmed by a team in a deep sea submersible

Rare white dumbo octopus was spotted and filmed by a team in a deep sea submersible

Geographical Sightings

Although the Dumbo octopus is still quite rare more sightings have been made worldwide. Reports of sightings have been in Australia, New Zealand, California; Philippines, New Guinea and the Indian ocean where the deepest Dumbo was found. See the video below to see this amazing and rare octopus.

I hope you enjoyed this article about the cute Dumbo. Please feel free to leave a comment in the box below

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Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on June 10, 2020:

Thank you Pamela. They are so cute and unusual I could not resist writing about them.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 10, 2020:

The Dumbo octopus is a very unusual species. I never heard of it before now. I also have not heard of another species that carries their young in different stages of development. Just the fact that no one knew about this octopus until 2005 makes it unusual. This is a very good article, Louise.