Researchers aboard the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus – a research ship currently on an expedition in and around Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument – were recently treated to a double dose of dumbo octopus awesomeness when they spotted two of these unique animals while steering a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) through the murky depths. 

"It's got, like, the biggest dumbo 'flappy-flaps'," commented one member of the team when describing the large fins of a juvenile octopus in the Cirroteuthid family that was found cruising at around 1,700 metres (5,500 feet) below the surface. The 'flappy-flaps' are what gave rise to the common name of these cephalopods as the fins sometimes resemble large ears like those of animated elephant Dumbo. The fins are sometimes used for swimming, but dumbo octopuses also propel themselves through the water by 'pulsing'. "There is a webbing between the arms, so when they swim this way it [looks] much like what a jellyfish does," explained NOAA researcher Mike Vecchione when describing a different dumbo octopus encounter from 2014.

The second of the two recent octopus sightings was found at a slightly greater depth and it was no juvenile. At around a metre wide the full-grown Grimpoteuthis octopus put on quite a show, staying close to the ROV for around 10 minutes. "My heart is bursting it's so cute," one researcher can be heard cooing in the video. 

Both of the species filmed during the recent expedition are cirrate octopuses, the Nautilus team explained on their website, which means they have characteristic floppy fins as well as hair-like tendrils beside their suckers along their eight arms.

Top header image: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, Gulf of Mexico 2014 Expedition