For the first time ever, scientists have witnessed the birth of a baby "dumbo" octopus and captured the adorable creature on camera.
Dumbo octopuses are one of the strangest marine creatures. They live thousands of feet deep underwater and are not commonly seen floating around. However, marine biologist Tim Shank got the chance to see a baby dumbo when he unknowingly nabbed a few eggs while collecting a coral sample from northwest Atlantic in 2005.
The eggs, hidden in coral branches, looked like tan-coloured golf balls. "With each successive collection, it became apparent that this was some sort of an egg case," Shank said.
"The first few were open and empty, the next two contained a white gelatinous mass within, and the final collection yielded the specimen described in the paper."
The final egg case was intact in a cold-storage water bucket but by the time Shank got it out of that room for inspection, the egg started hatching and the baby dumbo came out.
While all baby octopuses are adorable, dumbo stands out because of its massive fins that not only help the creature propel in water but also look like the ears of "Dumbo the elephant", a popular Disney character. That's how it got this name.
"Once the fins were observed while it was still in the bucket, it was clear that it was a 'dumbo' octopod," says Elizabeth Shea, another author of the study, published in Current Biology. Also, it is worth noting that the creature was fully formed from the beginning, more like a juvenile, and had all required physical features to swim, sense its surroundings, catch prey, and survive in deep waters.
The baby octopus swam in water for about 10 minutes, giving researchers the rare opportunity to film it. Later, they preserved the creature for long-term storage and took MRI scans to look at the creature more closely.
"The virtual exploration and 3D reconstruction of the internal anatomy of this deep-sea creature was particularly revealing," said study co-author Alexander Ziegler. They confirmed the creature belonged to the Grimpoteuthis family but the exact species still remains unknown.