Friday, 16 March 2012

Glass Octopus

Image: Richard E. Young
The Glass Octopus! So called because it's transparent. Not because it's made of glass. It's actually soft and gelatinous. Ice Jelly Octopus!

It's a good thing this octopus isn't made of glass because he would probably shatter in the pressure of his environment.

Also he wouldn't be able to move much unless he was constantly all hot and melted. Not even Vulcanoctopus was hot and melted so that's a tough ask!

The Glass Octopus reaches 11 cm (4.3 in) in mantle length and 45 cm (18 in) when you include the tentacles. They live in tropical and subtropical waters across the world at depths between 165 and 1,690 metres (540 and 5,550 feet). This is the Twilight Zone, where the Sun's light is reduced to a blue haze. Transparency therefore is a supreme camouflage if you can manage it.

This is a pelagic octopus, swimming through the ocean far above the sea floor. Lots of predatory fish will be looking upward from the depths, trying to discern the shadow cast by prey. For the Glass Octopus, this means orientating their body so that their decidedly opaque digestive gland stands vertical in the water column. That way, it casts the least possible shadow. Oh dear. Don't we all want our belly to cast the least possible shadow?

Image: Richard E. Young
They also have strange, rectangular eyes...

Image: Richard E. Young
on stalks.

Image: Richard E. Young
Sexy Tentacle
Like other octopuses, the male has an arm modified into a sexual organ known as the hectocotylus. Most octopuses are conservative about this sort of thing and mate on the sea floor.

Some pelagic octopuses, like the Blanket Octopus, have that crazy thing where the male just detaches his hectocotylus and gives it to the female. To the disapprobation of the other octopuses, I'm sure

It's not clear what the Glass Octopus does. They've been seen together, being about as intimate as octopuses ever are and presumably mating, but it was unclear what exactly was going on. I guess that's to be expected when they're virtually invisible. You could be shouting "get a room" at the wind.


Chloƫ Langley said...

I find it really amazing how transparent they are. Just their eyes and the digestive gland are visible. How do they do that? What do they use instead of the reliable haemoglobin in their blood?

I am always wondering why people do not have at least one single interesting ability or feature. We might be the most intelligent animals but all animals are intelligent (some more, some less). At least being transparent like this octopus would be nice!

Comment1 said...

Yeh, it's fantastic! Octopuses use haemocyanin instead of haemoglobin, so their blood looks a little blue. I know nothing of Glass Octopus blood at all. I don't even know if their blood is unusual among octopus or not.

I understand your jealousy of all these amazing talents. It seems that all our abilities involve us having to do loads of work. These creatures can just sit there being amazing!

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