Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Rare find from the deep sea


Dumbo octopuses live at a depth of thousands of meters in the oceans. A rare spectacle now provides further insight into this extraordinary habitat: a US scientist filmed a dumbo octopus measuring just a few centimeters hatching from its egg. Based on these video recordings and MRI scans of the internal organs, researchers from the Delaware Museum of Natural History, the University of Bonn, the University Hospital Münster, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution were able to document a surprising similarity of the hatchling with adult animals. The find is now being presented in “Current Biology”.

The remotely operated vehicle surfaces again, and this time it has brought up a cold-water coral from a depth of almost 2,000 meters (ca. 6,600 feet). On board the US research vessel Ronald H. Brown, the specimen is immediately placed in a container of seawater which has approximately the same temperature as the deep sea.

The dumbo hatchling shortly after leaving the egg capsule, which is barely two centimeters long.

© Foto: Timothy M. Shank und NOAA Office of Exploration and Research

3D model of the dumbo hatchling: transparent yolk sac, eyes orange, nervous system yellow, intestinal tract blue, shell red, fin cartilage pink, gills and branchial glands green, statocysts purple.

© Alexander Ziegler

By chance, the biologist Dr. Tim Shank observes a small deep-sea octopus hatching from a two-centimeter egg case. The animal immediately starts moving its fins in synchrony. Dr. Shank is quick to react, films the rare event, and later preserves the small marine animal for further investigation. This happened back in 2005.

At the time, Dr. Shank, who is working at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution took part in an expedition exploring a chain of underwater mountains off the US East Coast, the “New England and Corner Rise Seamounts”.

“Dumbo” was borrowed from the Disney classic

“It was the first time that such a deep-sea octopus was observed directly during hatching”, says Dr. Liz Shea of the Delaware Museum of Natural History. The small animal measuring around three centimeters has fins at the end of its mantle that are shaped like elephant ears. Based on the flying elephant “Dumbo” from the Walt Disney cartoons, these deep-sea octopuses are also known as “dumbo octopuses”.

The adult females prefer to lay their eggs in the branches of deep-sea corals and then disappear. “As the video by Tim shows, the dumbo octopus immediately moves like an adult animal about ten times its size”, says Dr. Alexander Ziegler from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Ecology of the University of Bonn, who performed studies on the hatchling together with Dr. Shea.

Getting an inside look with magnetic resonance imaging

To find out more about this rare specimen, the team of Prof. Cornelius Faber at the University Hospital Münster took a look inside using a high-resolution magnetic resonance scanner. Dr. Ziegler then used the MRI images to create an interactive three-dimensional model of the internal organs of the small deep-sea octopus. “Particularly striking was a large yolk sac, which serves as a nutrient source directly after hatching, until the young animal can independently capture its prey in the deep sea”, explains Dr. Ziegler.

The scientists were surprised how much the structure of other internal organs and of the nervous system resembled that of adult animals. “While the octopuses we know from shallow waters usually care for their brood, such behavior does not seem to impart any evolutionary advantage to deep-sea dumbo octopuses”, Dr. Ziegler explains.

The find belongs to the genus Grimpoteuthis

On the basis of the size ratios and shape of the internal organs it was possible to assign the rare specimen to the dumbo octopus genus Grimpoteuthis, an absolute novelty for young dumbos. “It was unfortunately not possible to determine the species, because the North Atlantic deep sea fauna is not fully known yet”, says Shea. In particular the deep sea still shows many white spots on the global biodiversity map. Therefore, in their publication, the scientists again emphasize the importance of protecting this sensitive habitat. Deep-sea trawling and mining operations endanger the habitat of deep-sea corals and all organisms associated with these animals, some of which have not yet been researched.

Publication: Elizabeth K. Shea, Alexander Ziegler, Cornelius Faber, Timothy M. Shank: Dumbo octopod hatchling provides insight into early cirrate life cycle, Current Biology, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.01.032

Media contact:

Dr. Alexander Ziegler
Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Ecology
University of Bonn
Tel. +49(0)228/735758

Dr. Elizabeth K. Shea
Curator of Mollusks
Delaware Museum of Natural History
Tel. +1-302-658-9111 x319

Johannes Seiler | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:

Further reports about: Biology deep sea deep-sea corals ecology magnetic resonance octopus

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>