In an unexpected turn of events, deep sea explorers have made a new discovery of a ghost-like octopus, which may turn out to be an entirely new species. The tiny creature was found in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, near Hawaii on 27 February.
A team of scientists aboard the Okeanos Explorer, which is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ship, made the discovery near Necker Island. Michael Vecchione, a zoologist with the NOAA, said the octopus was found swimming slowly at a depth of about 2.5 miles. Social media has already fondly associated it with the friendly cartoon character — Casper.
"The appearance of this animal was unlike any published records and was the deepest observation ever for this type of cephalopod. This animal was particularly unusual because it lacked the pigment cells, called chromatophores, typical of most cephalopods, and it did not seem very muscular. This resulted in a ghostlike appearance, leading to a comment on social media that it should be called Casper, like the friendly cartoon ghost. It is almost certainly an undescribed species and may not belong to any described genus," said Vecchione.
The octopus is believed to be one of the deepest dwelling creatures of its kind. The creature was also found to not have the usual pigmented cells – chromatophores, which is common in most cephalopods but uncommon in most deep sea creatures. This in turn, resulted in the octopus having a pale and distinctly ghost-like appearance.
Incidentally, it is also the first deep sea octopod to not sport fins. According to Vecchinone, the octopus' eyes are most likely functional. He noted that the octopus "either reacting to lights of the sub or vibrations of the water", began moving away from its perch. He also added that the octopus' eyes may help it identify bioluminescent fauna, which are common in the deep sea.
Vicchione said that he has consulted with two other scientists, both of whom "agreed that this is something unusual". He said that the team is now looking to making some comparisons with other recent discoveries after which the aim is to publish the findings in "scientific literature".
The discovery is perhaps an indication of how much of the oceans is yet to be explored by mankind.