Study of octopus beaks reveals rare species of ‘dumbo’ octopus in Antarctic waters

NIWA scientists are using octopus beaks recovered from Antarctic toothfish stomachs by scientific observers to obtain new information on the octopus species eaten by toothfish and their distribution in the Ross Sea.

Cirrothauma murrayi beak composite [Photo: Darren Stevens, NIWA]

 

The study used DNA barcoding to identify the species present in the stomachs and found a few surprises, including a rare species of gelatinous dumbo octopus, Cirrothauma murrayi, not previously thought to live in the Ross Sea.

Dumbo octopuses (suborder Cirrata) are bizarre, often gelatinous, octopuses whose common name originates from their resemblance to the title character of the Disney film, having prominent ear-like fins which extend from the mantle above each eye.

The research is being conducted by Fisheries scientist Darren Stevens and a team of local and international collaborators. When completed, the study will also provide useful reference material for large scale ecosystem science, helping other researchers understand the distribution of various species and where they fit into food webs.

“In particular, this work will help us know more about the distribution of octopuses in the Ross Sea.”

“Up until now our knowledge of octopuses present in the area was relatively poor. Numerous studies have looked at octopus around the Antarctic Peninsula but we know little about the species present or their distribution in the Ross Sea.”

Darren says the discovery of the Cirrothauma murrayi was a surprise addition to the research.

Drawing of the C. Murrayi dumbo octopus, credit Chun 1911 Wikipedia   

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Fisheries Scientist
Research subject: AntarcticaMarine Invertebrates