While exploring the cool hydrothermal system at the Dorado Outcrop – a rocky area of the seafloor formed by the cooled, hardened lava of an underwater volcano.
Scientists were surprised to discover a large group of deep-sea octopuses and clusters of their eggs just 3.2 kilometres below the surface and 161 kilometres off Costa Rica. They are no more than the size of a dinner plate but have very large eyes.
They were the unknown species to the genus Muuscotopus – the pink octopuses.
Barbara Ransom, a program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences said: “These surprising observations show us how a deep-sea animal reproduces. Unexpected discoveries like this one can dramatically change our understanding of how the oceans work.”
It is unusual and suicidal for the octopuses to be living at such shallow depths as deep sea octopuses tend to live in the cold, deep waters where the temperature is invariant.
At warmer temperatures, the octopuses’ metabolism will be excited causing an increase in respiration rates that will require them to take in more oxygen than the warm waters can provide.
Thus, the dense cluster of octopuses at such warm waters with relatively low oxygen suggests that the rocky Dorado Outcrop has a healthy habitat in the vicinity.
Scientists believe that the crevices of the rock and its basaltic nature has created hollow areas where the water is cool and oxygen-rich, creating an ideal environment for the octopuses.
Janet Voight, co-author of the study on the octopuses said: “To my knowledge, there had been no reports of octopuses at this or comparable depths off between southern California and Peru.
Never would I have anticipated such a dense cluster of these animals at 3000 meters depth, and we argue that the numbers of octopuses we see are simply the surplus population”.
This goes to show that the deep ocean is still a mysterious place to men and new discoveries like this allow us to take one step closer in discovering the wonders of the ocean.