Mysterious Sea Creature Known as Dumbo Octupus Found Thousands of Feet Below Ocean’s Surface

by Tia Bailey
Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

An eerie-looking octopus was found far beneath the ocean’s surface. The creature was a Dumbo octopus, a rare species.

The Dumbo octopus is a mysterious species that is named, of course, after the Disney beloved elephant Dumbo. They get this name for their big ear-like fins that make them resemble the cartoon elephant.

The elusive creatures are usually found thousands of feet below the surface, and frequent deep-ocean habitats. Because of this, it is very rare for a human to see one in person. However, in polar regions, it is more common to see them in more shallow waters. However, Dumbo octopuses are still the deepest-living known cephalopods (squid, octopus, and cuttlefish).

Michael Vecchione, a cephalopod expert with the NOAA National Systematics Laboratory at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., spoke to Newsweek about the eerie-yet-cute creatures.

There are two main features that allow scientists to characterize the Dumbo octopus — their fins that resemble big ears, of course, and “finger-like muscular projections called ‘cirri.'”

“We don’t really know what [the cirri] are used for but we presume it’s got to do with handling the prey that they feed on,” Vecchione said.

 “[They] live all the way down into the upper parts of the trenches, which are the deepest parts of the ocean,” Vecchione said. “They get down to probably around 7,000 meters deep [around 23,000 feet]. And the shallowest ones are up close to the edge of the continental shelf, so about 200 meters [256 feet]. So the range of the group in general is really broad.”

He also shares that because of their odd fins, their swimming pattern is unusual compared to other octopuses. They swim more like a jellyfish than their own species.

Dumbo Octopuses Named For Their Resemblance to Disney Character

Many have shared photos and videos found online of the creatures. A post was shared to the r/damnthatsinteresting subreddit earlier this year of a video of a Dumbo octopus.

The title read: “The Dumbo Octopus, the deepest living octopuses known, with some specimens captured or observed in hadal depths.”

The video shows the tiny Dumbo just hanging out on the ocean floor. Many people in the comments rushed to share how adorable they found the creature. “Usually the super deep water stuff looks like they’re straight outta nightmares,” one user wrote.

Another person said: “Soooo freakin cute! And I love those little ear things.”

The Dumbos are very rare, so don’t expect to see them at an aquarium or at the beach.

“There’s a species down in the Antarctic, which in some places we’ve found to be pretty abundant. But in general, the Dumbos are rare and people get excited every time they see them with a sub. So, I would say that they are rare, except in a few limited areas,” Vecchione said.