Deep-sea “Ghost” Amazes Scientists With Its Dramatic Fin Display


Madison Dapcevich

Staff Writer

clockOct 26 2018, 10:24 UTC

Scientists aboard the E/V Nautilus know how to deliver. This time around, the crew came across a pale “ghostly” deep-sea cephalopod flapping its wing-like fins and ballooning its body in a mesmerizing – albeit somewhat haunting – dance.

Nicknamed the “Dumbo” octopus for everyone’s favorite Disney elephant, this rarely seen Grimpoteuthis measured an estimated 60 centimeters (24 inches) long – and it was certainly “showing off.”


Our “grumpy tooth” friend was recorded rippling its hood and mantle, ballooning out as it revealed eight rows of suckers and inverted webbed arms. Normally, these cephalopods measure just 20 centimeters (8 inches) long and spend their time hovering above the seafloor in search of snails, worms, and other food.

“I love me a good cephalopod,” said one team member. Same girl, same.

Moving on to bluer pastures, the E/V Nautilus just launched its newest expedition from San Francisco, California, and will be at sea until October 31. Partnering with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the team is analyzing the deep sea to characterize unexplored habitats, species, and communities off a rocky basaltic reef just southeast of the Davidson Seamount



Located about 129 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Monterey, California, this inactive volcanic mountain habitat is one of the largest known seamounts in US waters, stretching 42 kilometers (26 miles) long and 13 kilometers (8 miles) wide. In a normally flat seascape, this “Oasis in the Deep” measures 2,280 meters (7,500 feet) tall from base to crest even though its peak is still 1,250 meters (4,100 feet) below the surface. As the Nautilus Live website notes, these peaks may create current patterns throughout the pristine area that support a diverse array of life, including sponge fields, deep-sea coral forests, crabs, shrimp, starfish, and “high numbers of rare and unidentified benthic species.”


Researchers came across other entrancing octopuses, including a group of brooding mothers located near shimmering fluid seeps previously unknown in this region and “never before seen in such massive aggregations.” Just last month, a dramatic gulper eel had the whole crew up in arms (and if you haven’t heard their reactions yet then be sure to put this video on your watch list).

The E/V Nautilus is a project by the nonprofit Ocean Exploration Trust and provides some seriously cool work distractions – err, research. 

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