A rarely-seen, deep-sea octopus put on a stunning show for researchers exploring portions of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.
A Cirroteuthid octopus, which typically swims or drifts near the seabed at depths of over 6,600 feet, was captured by the ROV Hercules’ camera expanding its “billowing arms like a circus tent blowing in the wind,” according to the researchers on the 2019 Nautilus expedition.
Because the octopus, which experts believe belongs to the Cirroteuthidae family of cirrate octopuses, live in ocean depths where light does not penetrate the cold waters, spotting them could only be accomplished with the use of technologies, like those employed aboard the E/V Nautilus.
“It’s really putting on a show for us,” one of the researchers could be heard saying as the cephalopod, estimated to measure about 8 inches across, approached ROV Hercules’ camera.
Little is known about these “elegant” creatures.
“Of the recognized species, it is closest to Cirrothauma magna. However, we know of several undescribed species and this could be one,” said invertebrate zoologist Mike Vecchione.
The team spotted the showy octopus while exploring Southwest Baker Island in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which makes up one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world, as part of the 2019 Nautilus expedition.
The expedition aims to collect deepwater baseline information to support science and management decisions in and around U.S. marine protected areas in the central Pacific. Researchers conduct seafloor mapping and acquire video, biological, chemical, and geological samples in deep-sea portions of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in order to better understand marine habitats, biogeographic patterns, seafloor mineral distribution, and the geologic history of these areas.
Just north of the equator, Baker Island is an uninhabited atoll surrounded by a rich diversity of marine life.