Would you just look at him? Sprung to life out of a Pixar movie, the ghostly little fella pictured above was discovered last month by Deep Discoverer, the deep-diving robot that travels with NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer. Spotted 4290m beneath the surface, it’s the deepest observation of a so-called incirrate octopus ever, and it might be a new species.
For several years, the Okeanos Explorer — the only federally-funded US ship built to explore Earth’s oceans purely for science — has been travelling the world, deploying its ROV to shine a spotlight on some of the darkest corners of the ocean floor, and live-streaming video footage to two-legged mammals with internet connections. Along the way, the mission has discovered a treasure trove of strange and adorable creatures.
The first operational dive of 2016, on February 27, took Deep Discoverer to depths of over 4000m northeast of Necker Island, Hawaii. The dive was intended to collect geologic information, not to discover new cephalopods.
Image Credit: NOAA
But you never what you’ll find at the ocean’s boundless bottom. When Deep Discoverer came across this little guy, it was chilling all by its lonesome on a flat rock. In a blog post, NOAA notes that while the creature is similar in appearance to common shallow water incirrate (un-finned) octopods, it has several unusual traits, including suckers in one rather than two series on each arm, and a distinct lack of muscle tone. Most notably, it lacks the chromatophore pigments that allow most octopi to change colour.
“It is almost certainly an undescribed species,” NOAA writes, “and may not belong to any described genus.”
Not only is this pale pink wad of flubber further proof that Pokémon live among us, it’s another reminder that we’re tremendously ignorant about life in the deep ocean.