Have you ever heard of the Glass Octopus? Nope, not an octopus sculpture made of glass. This is a very much alive, SEE-THROUGH octopus that floats along the currents deep below the ocean’s surface. We‘ve known of this glorious creature for over 100 years… so why are they just NOW going viral on the internet? Read on to discover more about these nearly invisible creatures!
Where To Find The Magestic Glass Octopus
The Glass Octopus (Vitreledonella richardi) spends its time in the meso-bathypelagic waters at a depth of around 900 meters (3,000 feet). It prefers the tropical and subtropical oceans but has no preference of where!
They’ve been found worldwide showing up in plankton trawl nets in the Arabian Sea, the stomach of bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Scotland, and as a smooth hammerhead shark’s meal in Baja, Mexico.
Jaw-Dropping Facts About The Glass Octopus!
It’s how big?!?
The Glass Octopus is roughly the size of a bowling pin (45cm, 1.5 feet) with 8 arms! It’s a pretty small octopus when compared to other cephalopods that live in the deep, like the colossal squid who can be the size of a school bus!
Hey you- I SEA you
The Glass Octopus is completely translucent, except for its:
- Optic nerve
- Digestive tract
Surprisingly, it also has chromatophores that look like someone sprinkled gold leaves all over its clear webbing.
🐙 Fun Fact 🐙
The widely spaced, single row of suckers on each arm look like tiny dollops of whipped cream you would find on top of a birthday cake!
Invisibility cloak = protection from predators
Since they spend their whole lives floating in the open sea, having a nearly invisible body comes in super handy. Being born with an invisibility cloak makes it pretty hard for predators to see this species…
The Glass Octopus has even discovered another way to up their camouflage game and seamlessly blend into their inky environment. They have a cylindrical-shaped eye that scientists believe minimizes the silhouette of the eye when it’s seen from below.
Out of the three visible organs, the glass octopus has managed to make at least one of those hard to see. Genius level activated!
They mate just like everyone else… right?
As if they weren’t unique enough, the Glass Octopus goes the extra mile to stand out with its mating process.
Like other open ocean male octopuses, such as the Blanket Octopus that breaks off its unique arm (also called a hectocotylus) to leave sperm packets with the female, the Glass Octopus has…well a different strategy.
The male still has a hectocotylus but (PLOT TWIST!)- it doesn’t break off!
When mating takes place, the male will completely envelop the female in his webbing, ensuring that the sperm is released precisely where it needs to go!
How did scientists discover this mating process?
A submersible off the coast of Hawaii at around 900 meters caught a Glass Octopus with WAY too many arms. Upon closer inspection, scientists observed one octopus inside the webbing of another.
The most plausible explanation: mating!
🐙 Fun Fact 🐙
After mating, the female glass octopus broods (matures) all the eggs inside of her mantle (body) as she navigates the massive open ocean. They hatch directly from her, and the cycle begins all over again.
There is still so much more to learn about the Glass Octopus
It might come as little surprise that this octopus is one of the least researched cephalopods out there (that we know of). After all, it’s 95% translucent AND lives at crushing depths of our oceans, making it like finding a needle in a haystack.
Would you believe me if I told you the first Glass Octopus was discovered in 1918? Well, believe it!
Up until recently, most of what we know about the Glass Octopus has come from studying the stomach contents of its predators.
So, how has it become such an internet sensation of late? Posting pictures of clear chunks that were dredged out of the belly of a whale doesn’t exactly scream viral content, does it?
It’s all thanks to some beautiful video footage that a little underwater robot named SuBastian took of a very much alive Glass Octopus!
Spacial Thanks To SuBastian (And Schmidt Ocean)!
On a recent expedition by the R/V Falkor ran by the Schmidt Ocean Institute, ROV SuBastian went on 21 dives and recorded 182 hours of video footage.
Much to the delight of everyone, SuBastian was able to film not one, but TWO, Glass Octopuses minding their own business in the ocean abyss. They were found off the remote Phoenix Islands, an archipelago located in the Pacific Ocean, roughly between Hawaii and Australia.
This month-long journey didn’t just capture the Glass Octopus on video, it also unearthed a dozen new animal species including crabs, corals, and jellyfish that have never been seen by humans.
Just imagine what else is out there for us to find?
The Glass Octopus: An Inkcredible Creature
The Glass Octopus joins the ranks of the few other clear-ly awesome creatures that exist on this earth like the:
- Glass frog
- Comb jellies (one that is hilariously named the sea walnut)
- An assortment of sea slugs with my personal favorite being the lion’s mane mudibranch
They have discovered the best way to get through life is to blend in with your environment and what better way to do that than be something you can look straight through.
If you want to educate yourself some more about all sorts of different cephalopods, take a look at our encyclopedia. Or, what we call it, our Octopedia!
Connect with other octopus lovers via the OctoNation Facebook group, OctopusFanClub.com! Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with the conservation, education, and ongoing research of cephalopods.
More Posts To Read:
- ‘Artist Spotlight’ Of The Week: Heather and Jeff Thompson
- Should You Pick Up An Argonaut Octopus Hitchhiker? Let’s Find Out!
- Cuttlefish Quidditch: Learn About Cuttlefish Migration!
- ‘Cephalotography’ Of The Week: Tobias Zimmer
- A Dreaming Octopus? Let’s Look At Cephalopod Sleep Cycles!
Corinne is a biologist with 10 years of experience in the fields of marine and wildlife biology. She has a Master’s degree in marine science from the University of Auckland and throughout her career has worked on multiple international marine conservation projects as an environmental consultant. She is an avid scuba diver, underwater photographer, and loves to share random facts about sea creatures with anyone who will listen. Based in Japan, Corinne currently works in medical research and scientific freelance writing!