Four New Octopus Species Discovered off Costa Rica

Research team aboard Schmidt Ocean Institute research vessel encountered more than anticipated

Did you know that more than 80% of our ocean is still unexplored? Scientists have made massive progress in marine exploration in the past century, yet there is still so much more we have to learn about our ocean. An ink-credible incidental discovery made in 2023 is a prime example of this.

In the summer of 2023, a team of scientists boarded Schmidt Ocean Institute’s R/V Falkor (too). They planned to study seamounts off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. They discovered more than they anticipated throughout two expeditions in the region. The team, led by Dr. Beth Orcutt of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and Dr. Jorge Cortés of the University of Costa Rica, identified four new octopus species.

One of the species—the “Dorado octopus,” named after its place of discovery on a rocky outcrop called El Dorado Hill—is thought to be a new species of Muusoctopus. Scientists think this genus may have evolved to brood its eggs near the warm waters leaking from nearby hydrothermal vents. When the research team discovered the Dorado octopus, it was doing exactly that. Brooding near these warmer areas could speed up the incubation process for octopus eggs, shortening the amount of time they are vulnerable to predators.

New octopus species

Janet Voight, Associate Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at the Field Museum, and Fiorella Vasquez of the Zoological Museum of the University of Costa Rica are writing formal descriptions of the animals. While these official descriptions have not yet been released, Voight noted that two of the other octopus species are also Muusoctopus, and the fourth is unlike anything she has ever seen before.

Four previously undescribed octopus species were not all this team found, either. When the scientists returned to the seamounts in December 2023, they saw the same scenes they had witnessed in June. The team also located two major octopus nurseries, a skate nursery and three hydrothermal springs, along with even more potential new species. During the two expeditions, more than 300 deep-sea specimens were collected for analysis from an area spanning about 100 square miles.

New octopus species

While ocean lovers wait with curiosity to learn all about the creatures discovered on this expedition, the importance of the work of researchers like those with Schmidt Ocean Institute cannot be overlooked. We must never forget that there is always more to learn about our ocean. Only with more knowledge of our blue planet can we fully protect it and the magnificent creatures that depend on a healthy ocean.

Be sure to visit Schmidt Ocean Institute’s website for updates on these discoveries, and check out Ocean Conservancy’s Action Center to learn how you can help us work to protect the ocean we all love so much.

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