Octopus That Looks Like Casper The Friendly Ghost Gives Scientists A Surprise

NOAA researchers found the octopus in waters more than 14,000 feet deep and think it may be a new species.

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The friendliest octopus you know. Via NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
John Virata

National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration scientists were probing the ocean depths off Hawaii when a remote operated vehicle (ROV), Deep Discoverer, happened upon what NOAA researcher Michael Vecchione described as an octopus that resembled Casper the friendly ghost of comics and cartoon fame.

The researchers were on the vessel Okeanos Explorer working on another project when the cute, white octopus popped in to say hello, according to NOAA.

Deep Discoverer was 4,290 meters — 14,076 feet — deep when it came across the octopus, sitting on a ridge on the ocean floor, waving its tentacles in the sediment. The researchers believe the animal to be a new species, as they could not find a single reference to it in the Hawaii Underwater Research Laboratory Guide, a scientific source for identifying animals in the Hawaiian archipelago.

Deep Discoverer, the NOAA ROV approaches the octopus as it sits on a ridge. Via NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Hohonu Moana 2016.

Deep Discoverer, the NOAA ROV, approaches the cute octopus as it sits on a ridge. Via NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

“This octopus is now confusing several of our shore-based scientists who have never seen anything like this,” one observer said in a video released by NOAA.

Vechhione wrote in his mission log that the little octopus lacked chromatophores, or pigment cells, which gave it a ghost-like appearance. A comment on social media suggested that the octopus be named Casper, he said.

“That animal is not in the HURL Guide,” another observer said in the video. “I have never, like ever seen that one. I know somebody is going to be really interested in this image.”

Vecchione wrote that the octopus has most likely not yet been described and may not belong to any known genus. In the future, Vecchione said the Okeanos Explorer researchers may work with colleagues to combine the observations of the Casper octopus with that of other like octopuses for a published paper in a scientific journal.

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