This Gloomy Octopus Has Found Happiness Despite Climate Change


Dr. Katie Spalding

Katie has a PhD in maths, specializing in the intersection of dynamical systems and number theory.

Freelance Writer

Turn that frown upside down! wikimedia/Sylke Rohrlach

There is no shortage of bad news when it comes to the effects of climate change, but, for some species, the climbing temperatures are offering a chance for adventure.

Australia’s “gloomy octopus” – so named for its droopy, downcast appearance – has taken the opportunity provided by the warming oceans to extend its habitat, traveling from its native eastern Australian waters to the seas around Tasmania.


This impressive journey takes the morose cephalopods about 240 kilometers (150 miles) south-west – no small feat for a species about the same size as a beach ball. But if you think that would stop them, you clearly haven’t seen many Pixar movies. Yes, it turns out the gloomy octopus has gone full Nemo, hitching a ride on the East Australian Current to get to their new home.

Populations of gloomy octopuses along the coast of Australia. The dark gray shows the new habitat; light gray is historical habitat. The East Australian Current is shown in blue, dude, check it out.

The good news is that this move seems to be working out for the octopuses in a big way. Dr Gretta Pecl, one of the authors of the study published in Nature, explained to ABC News that the new populations are “growing and reproducing quite happily and healthily.” In particular, researcher concerns about reduced genetic diversity have failed to materialize, as the gloomies meet and mate with fellow travelers from across state lines.

This is not the first time the gloomy octopus has made the news for Disney-esque antics. Reports surfaced last year of the creatures living in two large underwater cities – dubbed by scientists as Octopolis and Octlantis – off the coast of New South Wales.

Although the octopuses seem to be thriving in their new habitat, not everyone is so pleased. The warm waters around Tasmania are home to shellfish such as rock lobster and abalone – and the gloomies are not the only ones who are after them. Local fisheries worry about the effect of a new predator on the population of their most-profitable catch, especially when marine heat waves have already taken their toll on shellfish numbers – not all species can adapt to soaring ocean temperatures as well as the octopuses. The solution currently being floated won’t make any fans in the tentacled community, either: some Tasmanian fishermen have moved into hunting the gloomies themselves. They are, according to Craig Hardy talking to Oceana, “a good species to sell.”


But one thing’s for sure: the gloomy octopus is a survivor. Although it might not be making friends with all of the established Tasmanian residents, there’s little doubt it is very pleased with its new home – and even if things don’t work out, we’re sure there’s a movie deal in there for the little suckers.