Wednesday 2 May 2012


Image: NOAA
Being big and strong is cool! But some things are bigger and stronger than you could ever be. Cirroteuthis shows us how to yield gracefully.

Cirroteuthis is a genus of octopus that contains one species, C. muelleri.

Image: NOAA
They're cirrate octopuses, which means they have a small internal shell and a pair of fins on their mantle. It also means they're related to old friends like the Dumbo Octopus and the Flapjack Devilfish.

But Cirroteuthis is a lot bigger than most other cirrate octopus, reaching about 1.5 metres (5 ft) long.

Image: NOAA
Despite this impressive size, they're not particularly strong. They live in freezing cold, northern waters and, oddly, off New Zealand. Then you have to go down to depths of 700 to 4,850 metres (2,300 to 15,900 ft) and hopefully you'll find one drifting just 10 metres (30 ft) above the ocean floor.

At this depth it just doesn't do to fight the pressure. You will be mercilessly crushed. Cirroteuthis is soft and gelatinous, fighting the ceaseless weight of miles of ocean by means of its own fragility.

Lining their webbed tentacles are the cirri, from which cirrate octopuses get their name. These are fleshy spines between the suckers which are thought to generate a current to usher small crustaceans toward their rather thin, weak beak.

Image: SERPENT Media Archive Project
For all that, they actually have pretty good eyes! With a fully functioning lens and everything. In such darkness it's difficult to see how they could be of any use at all. A defiant luxury in the gloom, perhaps...


TexWisGirl said...

um, yikes! :)

Joseph JG said...

5 feet of flesh and spikes!

ElBandito said...

Aaaand I got nothing to further rhyme this. (Though now I'm thinking somebody should do a Dr. Seuss-esque book on all those weird deep sea critters). Great article though! I remember seeing those cute guys on the BBC (though, I might think differently if I personally bump into one. But still, those flippers!).

Joseph JG said...


I think they had the Dumbo Octopus on an episode of Blue Planet. It'd be pretty weird to bump into one, but at least they're so soft it wouldn't hurt one bit!

Anonymous said...

I think I found a bug in the "depth display" picture - the maximum depth there should be 4850 instead of 2300 m.

Joseph JG said...

Fixed, thank you! It's terrifying the kind of blunders we can make without ever being any the wiser.