The Dumbo Octopus: Facts & Anatomy

Instructor: Ebony Potts

Ebony has taught middle and high school physical science, life science & biology. She's also been an assistant principal and has a doctorate in educational administration.

Have you ever heard of the Dumbo Octopus? In this lesson you will learn all about this fascinating creature, where it lives, and how it survives in its habitat.

Under the Sea

Thousands of organisms live under the surface of the sea, but most of us can only name a handful of them off the top of our heads. Go ahead and try -- what ocean organisms spring to mind first? Sharks? Dolphins? Maybe fish or sea lions? Possibly you even thought of the octopi that live under the waves. But chances are, you were thinking of the large octopi with a big mantle and eight long tentacles. There are, however, many other species of octopus in the ocean. One type in particular is not very familiar to most people -- it's known as the Dumbo octopus.

How to spot a Dumbo Octopus

Dumbo Octopus
Dumbo Octopus

To find a Dumbo octopus you would have to venture nearly to the ocean floor. The Dumbo octopus lives deeper in the ocean than any other octopus. Some live as deep as nearly 20,000 feet below the ocean's surface.

The Dumbo octopus has a body that is semi-translucent (almost see through). It also has a bulbous, ''U'' shaped portion of its body, called a mantle, that contains most of its internal organs. In addition to its mantle, the Dumbo octopus has fins that resemble ears protruding from the mantle near its eyes. Characteristic of most octopi, it has eight webbed tentacles. Dumbo octopi also have poor eyesight.

Other Characteristics

There are about 17 species of Dumbo octopi, so characteristics can vary. Most species range from 8-12 inches in size. Dumbos also have quite a range in color; some have a yellowish color while others are brown or many shades in between. Some have suckers and spines on each tentacle, and others others look like more common octopus with ear-like fins.

When feeding, Dumbo octopi surprise their prey and eat it whole. They eat bristle worms, copepods, isopods, and amphipods. Much of their prey is found near ocean vents.

Dumbo octopi move by flapping ear-like fins, crawling on their tentacles, moving the webbing between their tentacles or by shooting water from a funnel in the center of their bodies. Each method of movement can be used separately or all together.

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