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How a deep-sea geology journey led researchers to a doomed octopus nursery

The odd and wonderful in the natural world

Sarah Zielinski How a deep-sea geology trip led researchers to a doomed octopus nursery Sixteen out of these 17 deep-sea octopuses are brooding young– but they’re all fated to pass away. A geology voyage to study fluid discharge from a rocky outcrop deep below the ocean’s surface area showed up something else: A population of brooding purple octopuses. The nest is most likely doomed due to the warm, low-oxygen water coming out of the rock, but those unfortunate cephalopods may be an indicator that a healthy population is hiding close by, a new study contends. The octopuses reside on Dorado Outcrop, some 250 kilometers off the coast of Costa Rica and 3,000 meters deep in the sea. The outcrop is essentially a buried 23-million-year-old mountain. “Fluid is releasing from this outcrop due to the fact that at some other location there’s fluid streaming from the bottom of the ocean into the earth,” notes Anne Hartwell, a marine research researcher with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Just where that fluid is going into isn’t really known, nor is the path that the water takes through the earth.

However geoscientists wondered about the fluid discharge, so in 2013 they checked out the website. Images recorded by the remote-controlled research car Jason II exposed a wealth of brooding octopuses clinging onto the side of the outcrop. “Everyone thought they were cool, however no one actually did anything about it,” Hartwell states. “There were biologists on board, however they were microbiologists.”

Hartwell wasn’t on that journey, however she was on another one a year later on and checked out the site in the research study submarine ALVIN. “When I got to the seafloor … there was so much life,” she recalls. The octopuses weren’t even the highlight for her. “I saw sea sponges and sea stars and crabs and shrimp. And they were colorful,” she includes. “I had not anticipated that type of macrofauna, huge organisms, that deep,” she says. “Then the octopuses were there, and it was just, ‘whoa, this place is cool!'”

Those octopuses interested Hartwell, so she coordinated with one of the geoscientists on that initial cruise, Geoffrey Wheat of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and cephalopod specialist Janet Voight of the Field Museum in Chicago. They analyzed hours of video and still images and other information collected on the two deep-sea missions.

A voyage to explore a rocky outcrop deep beneath the ocean’s surface area exposed a community complete of vibrant creatures, including a colony of purple octopuses brooding on a rocky outcrop– and probably fated to rapidly pass away.

The research study team determined that the octopuses are a species of Muusoctopus, a not-well-known genus of deep-sea octopods. Hundreds of these people were seen throughout the two explorations, consisting of many that had cemented themselves to the outcrop and a few of which seemed brooding eggs.

Those octopuses had actually connected themselves in an area of occasional fluid discharge. That fluid is 10 degrees Celsius warmer than the surrounding waters (which are a continuous, and cold, 2 ° C), and it includes less oxygen.

“I had actually initially assumed that … they actually wished to exist,” says Hartwell. It wasn’t until she took a better look at the evidence and sought advice from Voight that it became clear that the octopuses are physiologically worried when they’re in the fluid, she says. The mothers might have settled there when no fluid was flowing and are stuck when conditions alter. The species ought to be well adapted to the cold, higher-oxygen conditions discovered in the deep ocean. And when they discover themselves from their normal component, the octopuses, and their young, probably don’t survive, the group reports in the May concern of Deep Sea Research Study I.

It’s not all bad news. Hartwell and her colleagues believe that the doomed cephalopods are an indicator of a bigger population close by. In some cases, there were just arms or part of a mantle sticking out of the rock. “That was our evidence that there were octopuses that might fit inside areas readily available on this outcrop, and these spaces are especially not associated with any fluid discharge,” Hartwell states.

She is hesitant, though, to say that such a population truly exists. “Because we can’t see it, we have no chance of understanding whether they exist or not,” Hartwell warns. She hopes that scientists might one day have the ability to revisit the outcrop and poke around for those concealed octopuses. In the meantime, she’s working to categorize the rest of that colorful neighborhood that so dazzled her deep below the surface area of the ocean.

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