It might not have "hurricane wings" or "death breath", but there's certainly something Smaug-like about this eight-legged lurker. 
We have to tip our hats to The Artful Amoeba's Jennifer Frazer for the Tolkien-inspired nickname. Not only does this octopus resemble The Hobbit's notorious fire drake, but it was also discovered guarding treasure on the slopes of its very own Lonely Mountain: an underwater volcano. (OK, there might not have been any treasure.)

The sighting came during an expedition by the NOAA research vessel Okeanos Explorer off the coast of Saipan, the largest of the Mariana islands. "[We were] exploring the outer slope of the Esmeralda Seamount, a submarine volcanic complex to the west of Saipan," explains the team. The dive was part of a three-leg expedition to learn more about the ecosystems that form in the deepest reaches of our oceans. Active hydrothermal vents and mud volcanoes like Esmeralda are just some of the extreme environments explored by the Okeanos researchers.

"This dive began on an extinct part of the volcano at a depth of 520 metres (1,720 ft)," the team recalled in a trip log. The location we dove on, an extinct part of the volcano, is of interest to NOAA Fisheries because there is significant bottom fishing occurring in this area."

Understanding more about the communities that live in these seemingly uninhabitable depths will allow us to better protect the life here and to identify potentially harmful fisheries practices. Urchins, corals and sponges are among the animals that thrive on Esmeralda, and a quick move up the slope revealed they exist here in large numbers. "The region between 450-550 metres housed some of the highest density communities of the entire expedition," the researchers said.

At the time of posting, the identity of the "Smaug octopus" had not been confirmed by the Okeanos team, but we'll be updating you as more information comes to light. 

UPDATE (November 2, 2016): According to Smithsonian Museum of Natural History invertebrate zoologist Dr Mike Vecchione, it's possible that this octopus belongs to the genus Pteroctopus. "Of the three recognized species, the closest geographically is P. hoylei (Berry 1909), from the Hawaiian Islands," he says. "However, I am not confident in that ID. The species, and possibly the genus, could be new."
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Top header image: Jerry Kirkhart/Flickr