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Rare "Dumbo octopus" captured on film and video in Hawaii

During a recent deep-sea dive off the coast of Hawaii, scientists encountered a rare and mesmerizing ocean creature known as the “Dumbo octopus.” 

This remarkable sighting occurred approximately a mile below the ocean’s surface, on an unnamed seamount located within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

The expedition was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). 

Dumbo octopus

The Dumbo octopus, also known as Grimpoteuthis, belongs to the umbrella octopus family. The nickname “Dumbo” comes from its resemblance to the character in Disney’s 1941 film, due to the prominent ear-like fins situated on top of its head. The octopus utilizes these fins to gracefully propel itself through the water, as it searches for food.

The Dumbo octopus is usually found in the deep waters of the central Pacific at depths ranging from 1,300 to 13,000 feet. However, some of these intriguing animals have been found as deep as 23,000 feet. 

Because they live in such deep, dark environments, their coloration can vary, often appearing in shades of red, pink, brown, or white.

Fascinating footage 

The footage of the Dumbo octopus was captured by the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus, providing a unique opportunity to observe the creature as it effortlessly drifts in the ocean’s depths. 

The crew aboard the E/V Nautilus was fortunate enough to witness not just one, but five of these creatures in a single night.

A beautiful experience

Jaina Galves, a video engineer intern who played a role in this discovery, shared her excitement about the experience.

“Each time, you’re kind of just roaming around with the ROV,” said Galves. “Somebody’s like, wait, what is that in the corner, and then everybody starts to gasp, everybody starts to freak out. And everybody’s like Dumbo octopus!”

“So we take the ROV over, we go, and we follow them. They move very slowly and very gracefully, so we get to follow them for quite a while.”

“It depends on what we’re doing and how long we can hang out. But for one of them, we just got to stay for quite a while. Just watched it kind of glide through the water, and it was beautiful.”

Galves told ABC News: “When I saw it on the screen, I couldn’t even say anything. My jaw was just on the floor.”

Unique characteristics


Overall, scientists have discovered more than a dozen species of dumbo octopuses. The largest individual captured on film was nearly six feet long, according to the environmental group Oceana, but most are much smaller, with an average length of 8 to 12 inches. 


Dumbo octopuses are characterized by their unique umbrella-shaped appearance when their arms are spread. They possess a soft, gelatinous body, which is an adaptation to the deep-sea environment.


The octopuses feed on crustaceans, benthic worms, and other small organisms found on the ocean floor. They often swallow their prey whole.


Unlike many other octopus species, Dumbo octopuses do not have a defined breeding season. They can lay eggs at any time, and the young are developed enough to survive on their own immediately after hatching. While their exact lifespan is unknown, it is believed to be about 3 to 5 years.

The species is known for its gentle and passive demeanor, and since it inhabits regions difficult for humans to access, it has not been extensively studied, and much about it remains a mystery.

The E/V Nautilus, owned by the nonprofit organization Ocean Exploration Trust, is currently exploring the expansive Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. This protected marine area spans over 500,000 square miles in the Pacific, making it larger than all U.S. national parks combined.

Video and image credit: NOAA Ocean Exploration via the Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute

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