NEW YORK, March 5 (Reuters) – An underwater research craft has seen a “ghostlike” octopus that seems to belong to a previously unknown species at a depth of over two miles (3 kilometers) on the floor of the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, U.S. scientists say.
The milky white creature, nicknamed “Casper the Friendly Ghost” by Twitter users, was captured on cameras mounted to the craft at a depth of 4,290 meters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. Describing the creature as an incirrate octopod, among two major groupings of octopods, NOAA said it had been the first time that an incirrate was seen so deep in the ocean.
“This creature was especially unusual because it lacked the pigment cells, known as chromatophores, average of most cephalopods, and it didn’t seem very muscular,” explained Michael Vecchione, a research zoologist at NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. Cephalopods belong into a biological class that includes octopuses, squid and cuttlefish.
The octopod “almost certainly” was among a species never clarified by scientists, and it may well belong to a genus that has not yet been identified, Vecchione wrote on the NOAA’s site. He could not be reached immediately for more comment.
NOAA has published a video on the site showing a pale, curved form with expressionless eyes and languid tentacles resting on the ocean floor. Its appearance led several Twitter users to say it resembled the cartoon character Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Last week’s discovery came through the first dive of the 2016 year from the Okeanos Explorer, a ship operated by NOAA that explores little-known parts of the oceans.
The remotely operated underwater vehicle Deep Discoverer came throughout the octopod near Necker Island, or Mokumanamana, in the northwestern end of the Hawaiian Archipelago.
(Reporting By Frank McGurty; Editing by Tom Brown)
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