Unusually, Caspers appear to lay their eggs on tall sponges rather than rocks.

Found in the Deep: Meet the Ghostly Octopus Casper | Environment

A white octopus sat on the seabed, wiggling its short, stubby arms gently, gazing at the camera of a deep-dive robot with jeweled eyes.

It was 2016, in the waters off Hawaii at a depth of 4,290 meters (2.6 miles). No one has ever seen an octopus like it, and certainly not that deep. It was nicknamed Casper due to its ghostly appearance.

Before that, the only cephalopod that could be photographed at such depths was the Dumbo octopus, named after another cartoon character that can swim up and down at 6,957 meters with graceful sides on both sides of its head ear flaps.

The ocean is one of the last truly wild spaces in the world. It’s full of fascinating species that sometimes seem to border the absurd, from fish looking up through their transparent heads to golden snails in iron armor. We know more about deep space than we know about the deep ocean, and science is only just beginning to scratch the surface of the rich and diverse life in the depths.

As mining companies push to industrialize the seafloor and global leaders continue to debate how to protect the high seas, the new Guardian Seascape series will feature some of the weird, wonderful, majestic, absurd, stubborn and exciting creatures recently discovered. They reveal There’s still much to learn about Earth’s least-known environments—and how much to protect.

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What are the findings in the depth series?

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The ocean is one of the last truly wild spaces in the world. It’s full of fascinating species that sometimes seem to border the absurd, from fish looking up through their transparent heads to golden snails in iron armor. We know more about deep space than we know about the deep ocean, and science is only just beginning to scratch the surface of the rich and diverse life in the depths.

As mining companies push to industrialize the seafloor and global leaders continue to debate how to protect the high seas, the new Guardian Seascape series will feature some of the weird, wonderful, majestic, absurd, stubborn and exciting creatures recently discovered. They reveal There’s still much to learn about Earth’s least-known environments—and how much to protect.

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For Janet Voight, associate curator of invertebrate science at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Casper’s appearance was a surprising moment. “It was completely new and different,” she said of the discovery.

Casper’s first glimpse raises many tantalizing mysteries. Why so pale? Most other octopuses have colorful pigment cells on their skin that instantly change their appearance and act as camouflage to confuse predators.

Even in the deep sea, octopuses can be colorful, purple, and warty Granidone. Some use dark-skin-pigmented cloaks, seemingly to hide the glowing, bioluminescent prey they catch and thus avoid alarming other predators. Voight speculates that Casper’s pallor may be down to a lack of pigment in the food.

Another piece of the puzzle is the short arm, though Casper isn’t the only one with a limited reach. “The shallower and more tropical you are, the longer and thinner your arms are,” says Watt.

There is no clear explanation for this trend of shorter arms in deep-dwelling octopuses. Instead of reaching for food, Voight believes, they have evolved another strategy of twisting their bodies so that their underbody mouths are directly over the food.

Scientists learned more about Casper by retrieving five years of archive footage collected during the Pacific Deep Ocean Survey. They found dozens of Casper-like people living on the seabed from two different species.

Unusually, Caspers appear to lay their eggs on tall sponges rather than rocks. Photo: MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute)

“That’s probably because they’re fairly common,” Watt said. “It’s just an indicator that we know very little about what’s going on out there.”

Particularly exciting for Voight was Caspers’ arms wrapped around eggs stuck to high sponges. She had previously speculated that seafloor-dwelling octopuses needed hard rocks to spawn. Further down, there may be less exposed rock, limiting their depth.

“Casper showed a solution to this problem by looking for sponge stems,” she said. “Is this a breakthrough in octopus evolution?”

The sponges themselves are attached to rocky nodules scattered across large abyssal plains and take millions of years to form.

If other deep-sea octopuses are anything to go by, female caspers may spend a long time guarding their eggs. octopus from another species (Graneledone boreopacifica) on the steep cliffs of Monterey Canyon off the coast of California, where she’s been wrestling with the same spot for more than four years.

Currently, the pale and enigmatic Caspar octopus has not been officially named because all we know about them comes from images; no one has been able to collect a single specimen to study in detail.

“With an octopus, you really need it,” says Watt.

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