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The Grimpoteuthis, or more commonly regarded as the Dumbo octopus, represents the crux of what some believe to be extremeophiles, or organisms living in physically or geochemically extreme environments (Rossi et al., 2003). The Dumbo octopus receives its name from its distinct large ear-like fins that protrude off the side of its head, resembling the popular Walt-Disney characterature “Dumbo the Flying Elephant”.

Dumbo octopi inhabit extreme depths between 500 m and 7500 m primarily in the North-east Atlantic Ocean (Collins, 2003). Because its habitat is so remote, Dumbo octopi have rarely been characterized in its natural environment. The little amount of data that exists has been recovered from dead Grimpoteuthis specimens.

Dumbo octopi live on the sea floor and feed primarily on worms, bivalves, pelagic copepods, and other crustaceans (Collins, 2003). Physiologically, they are similar to other Octopoda species, with the exception of their ear-like fins. They have a bell shaped body that is semigelatinous in consistency with no discernable distinction between the head and the mantle (Collins, 2003). Each arm has 60 – 70 toothed suckers. Males and females can be distinguished by the sucker patters on the arms (Collins, 2003).

Like other octopi, the Grimpoteuthis are able to manoeuvre quite easily either by pulsating its arms, shooting water out of its funnel, or waving its ear-like fins (Collins, 2003).

The Dumbo octopi’s impact on the local ecology is largely unknown at this time because of the lack of data regarding this genus; however, octopi in general play a role in controlling the population of sea floor feeders and are an important predator to numerous other species (Ambrose, 1984).


Taken from the TIME 2005 photoessay: Aliens of the Deep

Accessed: Monday July 14th, 2008

Ambrose, F. 1984. Food preferences, prey availability, and the diet of Octopus bimaculatus Verrill. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 77: 29-44.

Collins, M. 2003. The genus Grimpoteuthis (Octopoda: Grimpoteuthidae) in the north-east Atlatnic, with descriptions of three new species. Zoo. J. Linn. Soc. 139: 93-127.

Rossi, M., Ciaramella, M., Cannio, R., Pisani, F., Moracci, M., and Bartolucci, S., 2003. Meeting Review – Extremophiles 2002. J. Bacteriol. 185: 3683-3689.
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