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Rare octopus turns up at NIWA

MONDAY, JULY 3, 2017

Rare octopus turns up at NIWA

NIWA’s Marine Invertebrate Collection has welcomed two extremely rare octopus that have only just been provisionally identified.

They are affectionately known as “dumbo octopus” after the Walt Disney character Dumbo the Elephant. That’s because they have two prominent, floppy appendages which look like ears but are in fact fins.

The octopus were collected by independent observers on a recent commercial fishing expedition to the Challenger Plateau, west of New Zealand and delivered to NIWA’s Greta Point campus in Wellington on Friday.

Fisheries researcher Mark Fenwick undertook the delicate process of defrosting the frozen specimens and preparing them for preservation.

“These are adult specimens that have not often been seen in New Zealand waters before, and considered to be very rare,” Mr Fenwick said.

“We need to take extreme care to ensure we don’t damage them.”

The two specimens have been provisionally identified as Luteuthis dentata and
Cirrothauma magna with only four specimens of the latter species having previously been documented from New Zealand waters.

They live at depths of 3–4000m although some live up to 7000m deep, the deepest of any known octopus and feed on crustaceans, bivalves and worms. They are also among the rarest of the species.

They will be kept at the NIWA Invertebrate Collection which comprises about 300,000 specimens for scientific study and is a nationally significant resource that aims to add to our knowledge of what makes up New Zealand’s vast marine realm.

Collection manager Sadie Mills said formal identification would be confirmed in future by NIWA and international experts by comparing genetic sequences with other octopods collected in the region.

“We are very excited to receive these specimens – they will be available for national and international researchers to help enhance our understanding of octopod diversity in New Zealand.”


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