Deep-Sea Robot Spies Ghostly, Unknown Octopus

Previously-undiscovered octopus spotted hanging out on the ocean floor

No matter how deep scientists venture, the ocean always seems to be full of surprises. In late February, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) took a deep-sea robot for a spin near Hawaii, and they stumbled across a single, small octopus unlike any they'd ever seen before.

For a few years, the NOAA has dispatched the ship Okeanos Explorer to oceans all over the world to explore with its deep-diving robot, the Deep Discoverer. For the first dive of the year, the researchers sent the robot to examine the ocean floor northeast of Hawaii’s Necker Island. As it trawled around about two-and-a-half miles below the surface, the Deep Discoverer came across a tiny, ghost-like octopus hanging out on a large, flat rock all by itself, Sarah Laskow reports for Atlas Obscura.

“This octopus is now confusing several of our shore-based scientists who have never seen anything like this,” one of the researchers can be heard saying on a video taken during the dive.

While the octopus resembles some common species of shallow-water octopi, it has some differences that set it apart, the first being its ghostly color. Most octopi have chromatophore pigments, which allow them to change color. But the mysterious little octopus appears to be missing them, which explains its ghostly, iridescent appearance. Researchers also note that it only had a single row of suckers along each tentacle instead of two, Maddie Stone reports for Gizmodo.

“It is almost certainly an undescribed species and may not belong to any described genus,” Michael Veccione, director of the NOAA Fisheries National Systematics Laboratory wrote in a statement.

The Deep Discoverer didn’t set out on this dive to search for new species, but this isn’t the first time the robot has come across all sorts of strange and adorable undersea animals. In the past, it has captured everything from a dumbo octopus curling up its tentacles to tiny jellyfish swimming against a current, Rose Pastore wrote for Popular Science.

The octopus has not been named yet, but according to Vecchione, people on social media are already comparing the little eight-legged cutie to Casper the Friendly Ghost.

new octopus in wild
The Deep Discoverer came across a ghostly new species of octopus hanging out on a flat rock deep beneath the Pacific Ocean. NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research