Octopuses are up to something. Cephalopods — the class of molluscs to which octopus, squid and cuttlefish belong — are some of the most intelligent creatures on the planet, and they know it. These squishy geniuses are masterful escape artists and like to mess with humans by shooting water at aquarium light switches and even employees. Because their takeover is clearly inevitable, for this year's Cephalopod Week, we're celebrating our most adorable new overlord: The flapjack octopus.
Image Courtesy of Rob Zugaro
"But it's named after a pancake!" You cry. "What could such a small, pancake creature do to me, a sentient flesh sack?" Yes, its ears are most certainly pancake-like, and yes, pancakes are a universal good. But that won't stop the flapjack octopus from swimming its way into your heart and exploding it from within — figuratively speaking.
Recently, researchers from Australia's Museums Victoria were lucky enough to get a glimpse at the elusive cutie while their research vessel, the Investigator, was on a 31-day expedition from Tasmania to the Coral Sea. Initially, reports suggested the specimen was a dumbo octopus, which, like the flapjack, has fins that resemble floppy ears. The dumbo's "ears", however, are a bit longer — like the famous elephant from that goddamn depressing Disney movie.
Though flapjacks are frequently found in ocean trawls, we cephalopod enthusiasts rarely get a good look at them, since they live on the deep sea floor.
"In Australian waters we have two known species of flapjack octopod that occur in deep water around the southern coast," Julian Finn, Museums Victoria's senior curator of marine invertebrates, told Gizmodo. "Previously these octopods were reported to occur down to depths of 1100 meters. The featured specimen, collected on the recent Investigator survey, was collected from water 2750 metres deep!"
According to Finn, flapjacks (Opisthoteuthis californiana) are predators that mainly consume crustaceans (mysids, copepods and crangonid shrimps) and nightmare creatures called polychaete worms. They have been found flapping their tiny flippers off the coast of California and Japan.
While their fins get the most attention for obvious reasons, flapjacks have other cool features, too. "Unlike most other octopods (that have two rows of suckers on each arm), finned octopods have only a single row of suckers on each arm," Finn explained. "This row of suckers is bordered on each side by a row of finger-like projections, called 'cirri'. It is these cirri that the octopod reportedly uses to sense prey buried in the mud."
Museum Victoria's recent survey collected specimens, including this flapjack, from much greater depths than its previous dives. "It is quite likely that the haul of finned octopods (including this specimen) will include new species or at least species not previously reported from Australian waters," Finn said.
Hopefully, our adorable new despots will have mercy on us. I welcome their squishy rule.