'Ghost' octopus discovered off Hawaii

The octopus - spotted at a depth of 4,290m - was nicknamed Casper the Friendly Ghost, after the cartoon character, on social media.
The octopus - spotted at a depth of 4,290m - was nicknamed Casper the Friendly Ghost, after the cartoon character, on social media.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Scientists have discovered a "ghost-like" octopus in deep water off Hawaii that appears to belong to a previously unknown species, researchers said.

Scientists from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that the creature, discovered at a depth of about 4,290m, made it a depth record for an octopod without fins.

A submersible research craft spotted the small, translucent octopus by chance around 4km underwater off Necker Island on the north-western end of the Hawaiian Archipelago, the NOAA said.

"As the ROV (remotely operated vehicle) was traversing a flat area of rock interspersed with sediment at 4,290m, it came across a remarkable little octopod sitting on a flat rock dusted with a light coat of sediment," the NOAA's Michael Vecchione said.

"The appearance of this animal was unlike any published records and was the deepest observation ever" for this type of marine creature, he added, in a statement released on Wednesday.

The octopus - nicknamed "Casper the Friendly Ghost" on social media - was caught on camera by the Okeanos Explorer, which the NOAA uses to explore underwater geology and marine life in little-known parts of the world's oceans.

The NOAA has posted a video on the website showing a pale, rounded form with expressionless eyes and languid tentacles resting on the ocean floor.

Mr Vecchione said the newly discovered octopus has a single row of suckers on each tentacle instead of the usual two, but is "particularly unusual because it lacked the pigment cells, called chromatophores, typical of most cephalopods, and it did not seem very muscular".

"It is almost certainly an undescribed species and may not belong to any described genus," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2016, with the headline ''Ghost' octopus discovered off Hawaii'. Print Edition | Subscribe