The dumbo octopus is a genus of octopi that falls under the umbrella octopus family. Their name comes from the enormous fins on the back of their head, which resemble the ears of the character Dumbo from the Disney movie “Dumbo”.
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These octopi live deep under the sea, and as a result, very little information exists on them. However, their cute appearance appeals to many, and they are the subject of much curiosity, both scientific and otherwise.
List of Species Found in This Genus
Emperor Dumbo Octopus
Length: 7-12 in (17-31 cm)
Weight: 2.2 lb (1 kg)
Body and Coloration: Their bodies are soft and gelatinous, held together with a shell made of cartilage shaped like a ‘U’ or ‘V’. Similar to other octopi, they have eight appendages. As part of the family of umbrella octopi, these eight limbs are joined together with webbing to form a membrane.
Their head has two large eyes on both sides and, most notably, two large fins that resemble ears, which give them their name.
Coloration can vary depending on the species, with red, white, pink, and orange among the most common morphs.
Though one can assume they are found in oceans worldwide, they have only been seen in Australia, California and Oregon in the United States, New Guinea, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
These octopi live at extreme ocean depths close to the hadal zone at 11000 m.
They feed on crustaceans, snails, and worms found close to the ocean floor. Some small fish are sometimes scooped up by them while foraging for food.
On average, a dumbo octopus lives for 3-5 years.
They are active hunters, constantly searching for their next meal on the ocean floor. When they encounter potential prey, they will grab and consume it whole.
Due to these creatures being found deep underwater, very little of their behavior has been observed or recorded.
As few predators live where these octopi are found, they are rarely preyed on. Some of their natural predators include certain sharks and dolphins that sometimes dive to the depths searching for food.
The most significant parts of a dumbo octopus are the two “ear-like” fins on the side of its head. It uses them to propel its body forward while using its arms to steer in its preferred direction.
Their arms have suckers on their ends, helping them navigate their surroundings using touch and sensing water currents.
To deal with the high pressures generated by the ocean’s depths, the bodies of the dumbo octopus are gelatinous and soft. Conversely, if brought to the surface, their bodies cannot function properly.
Also, they are well adapted to cold temperatures since sunlight does not reach the depths these octopi inhabit.
Mating and Reproduction
Little remains known about the reproductive habits of the dumbo octopus. Scientists have determined that the male passes a “sperm packet” to the female, which she uses at an opportune moment to fertilize the eggs inside her. She lays the eggs on the ground near rocks or similar hard surfaces, ensuring they stay in one place for safety reasons.
Once they hatch, the young octopi are independent and constantly migrate. Juveniles reach sexual maturity at around 1-2 years, after which they begin searching for a mate.
Due to the lack of information about the dumbo octopus, the exact population remains unknown. However, it is assumed to be “Least Concern” or “LC” as human activities, like fishing with nets, rarely hurt these cephalopods.
Unlike every other species of octopus, dumbo octopi cannot shoot ink or change color. One can assume the reason for this is the lack of predators where they live, leading to them slowly losing these adaptations.
Despite having large eyes, their vision is very poor. However, as their environments are pitch black, this doesn’t affect them.
The largest-ever dumbo octopus recorded was 5 ft 10 in and weighed 13 lbs.