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The genus of creatures nicknamed dumbo octopuses (known by the scientific name Grimpoteuthis) live deep under water so their contact with humans is extremely limited. As a result of their preference for deep waters, little is known about them and their role in marine ecosystems, so their impact on human life is not well understood.
Origins of the Name
One reason the dumbo octopus has captured the attention of many humans is its unusual appearance, which earned it the nickname “Dumbo” after the Disney character. This nickname stems from the appearance of two ear-like fins on either side of the octopus’s head. No other known genus of octopi has this unique physical feature.
Home to the Dumbo Octopi
Dumbo octopi make their home deep below the ocean’s surface. Estimates of how deep they live vary. According to Oceana, an international organization dedicated to marine conservation, the dumbo octopus can live in water depths of up to 6,500 feet while Scientific American author and octopus expert Katherine Harmon Courage extends the range of their habitat from 9,800 to 14,800 feet below the ocean's surface. The disagreement illustrates how little is actually known about the genus or any of the 17 known species of dumbo octopi. These ranges all suggest the dumbo octopus can withstand extreme pressure. If Courage's estimate is correct, for example, the dumbo must be able to withstand up to 5,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.
Unusual Eating Behavior
The dumbo octopus would never pose a threat to human safety in the way sharks or other predatory marine life might. They are nonthreatening because they have a unique way of eating – another difference between them and other types of octopi. Most octopi have mouths designed for chewing and ripping apart their food. The dumbo octopus, in comparison, swallows its food whole. Since these octopi primarily eat bivalves and crustaceans, this method works effectively.
Magical Movement of the Dumbo
Dumbo octopi do have eight legs but they are all connected by webbing creating the appearance of an umbrella when the octopus is moving through the water. They move in three different ways: by pulsing these connected arms, by using their ear-like fins, or by jet propulsion. The octopus also can combine all three of these methods. A number of videos of dumbo octopi caught swimming through the ocean refer to this movement as “dancing” because of its graceful and unusual appearance. As a result, humans have been affected by the uniqueness and beauty of this marine creature even if they may never see one in person.
- Oceana: Dumbo Octopus
- Aquarium of the Pacific: Species Overview
- Scientific American: The Dumbo Octopus Swims with Fins
- BBC Nature: Dumbo Octopuses
- Smithsonian Institute: Dumbo Octopus
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute: Grimpoteuthis
- Encyclopedia of Life: Grimpoteuthis
- Northeast Fisheries Science Center: NOAA Researchers, Ships Participate in Census of Marine Life’s Decade of Discovery