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Baby Dumbo octopods exhibit adult qualities, research shows

Courtesy of Delaware Museum of Natural History
An MRI of the Grimpoteuthis.

Video exploration has allowed researchers - including one from the Delaware Museum of Natural History - to find that baby Dumbo octopods look and act like small adults when they hatch.

The Dumbo octopod’s name refers to its fins, which are outsized compared to its body, just like the Disney elephant’s ears.

But that’s not the only reason this octopod stands out.

Researchers used an MRI to map a baby Dumbo’s internal shell and brain development. Delaware Museum of Natural History Mollusks Curator Liz Shea says think about tadpoles or other animals that have a very different larval phase in contrast to their adult phase. The Dumbo octopod doesn’t transform in appearance after its born, nor does it leave to find a new habitat.

“We believe that the animal hatches out ready to occupy the same niche an adult does - able to flap its fins, able to move, able to sense its environment in the same way the adult does,” Shea said.

Researchers were looking at deep sea corals in 2005 when they saw eggs among them. They used an MRI on the hatchlings and determined they were part of the Grimpoteuthis family.

Shea says the actual species identity is still unknown and researchers are not quite sure how abundant they are.

“They’re potentially living essentially by themselves,” Shea said. “We know that their depth distribution is quite deep.”

Next, she wants to further explore their distribution and life cycle.

The research was published in Current Biology.

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