Usually deep sea creatures give us the willies, but this one really surprised us with its cuteness.
The Grimpoteuthis octopus, which was recently captured in very rare footage by the NOAA research vessel Okeanos Explorer, is so sweet and innocuous-looking that it actually shares its name with Dumbo, the Disney elephant. The Dumbo octopus has prominent fins that protrude just above its big eyes, making them look like ears, and it uses the ear-like fins to propel itself upwards -- just like Dumbo's magical ears allowed him to fly.
NOAA captured the footage during a dive in the Gulf of Mexico on April 26, 2014, and the Dumbo octopus was quickly declared the undisputed highlight of the trip. "A ridiculously adorable and ultimately fascinating 'Dumbo' octopus found in the Gulf of Mexico," NOAA's Facebook page boasted.
The footage itself is captivating as the Dumbo octopus floats away ethereally in a vast, dark ocean, but it also revealed something new about the animal. The Dumbo, which may or may not have been disturbed by the filming, coils its tentacles in a way that has never been observed before in the species, according to NOAA.
Dumbo octopuses have been spotted in deep sea environments in New Zealand and Australia, Monterey Bay, California, Oregon, the Philippines and in Papua, New Guinea. The largest Dumbo octopus ever recorded was over six feet in length, but the average size for most species is eight to 12 inches in length.