Outforia Quicktake: Key Takeaways
- Flapjack octopus (Opisthoteuthis californiana) is a deep-sea creature known for its cuteness and umbrella-like body shape.
- They inhabit depths of 430-7,710ft (130-2,350m) in Monterey Bay, Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, and off the coast of central Honshu.
- Flapjack octopuses have a carnivorous diet, consuming small worms, crustaceans, and invertebrates found in the mud and rocks on the seafloor.
- They are difficult to study due to their deep-sea habitat, and their conservation status is currently “data deficient.”
- Flapjack octopuses are part of the dumbo octopus genus, with 15 known species living in the deep ocean.
The flapjack octopus might just be the cutest creature in the ocean. Its cuteness inspired pop culture, being featured in films and video games. This animal is so cute because of its small, compact body. Plus, we can’t ignore the ear-like fins at the top of its mantle.
What makes these animals even more appealing is that they live in the deep ocean. They are mysterious and hard to study. This makes them all the more desirable to researchers and artists alike.
What else might we discover about the flapjack octopus in years to come?
Although the flapjack is one of the most interesting kinds of octopuses, it’s not the only octopus. There are over 300 types of octopuses in the world.
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What Do We Call Them?
We call these animals the “flapjack” octopus because they resemble a lumpy pancake. These animals are cute, no matter what they’re doing.
People are infatuated with them. So much so that scientists considered naming them “adorabilis” at one point. But, in the end, the octopuses didn’t receive this name. Instead, their scientific name is Opisthoteuthis californiana.
The discovery of this species is quite new. The first documented sighting of these octopuses occurred in 1949. The first person to discover this species was marine zoologist Samual Stillman Berry.
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What Do They Look Like?
These octopuses look like lumpy pancakes when they’re resting. They have a gelatinous body that lies flat at the bottom of the ocean, like a pancake.
When they swim, they look more like fluid jelly. To swim, they pulsate their body, contracting their arms.
Flapjack octopuses are a type of cirrate octopus. This means they have an internal shell and two fins on the top of their head.
The two fins only add to the animal’s cuteness because they resemble elephant ears. Of course, the fins aren’t there for our enjoyment — they help the octopus swim.
They are not strong swimmers, so after a short swim, they’ll float back down to the sea floor. When they float, their body balloons out like an umbrella.
Flapjack octopuses look like umbrellas because of the webbing between their arms. They spread out their arms when they need to drift safely to the sea floor. The webbing slows them down like an umbrella.
Near their ear-like fins, the eyes sit atop their large, round heads. Their eyes are very prominent, bulging out of their head. This is due to their deep-sea habitat, where it is difficult to see.
Small Bodies & Dull Colors
They are smaller animals that only reach a total length of about 20in (50cm). The mantle is usually about half the size of the total length, reaching only 8in (20cm).
Unlike other octopuses, the flapjack octopus is not that colorful or patterned. It has simple, deep orange skin. Sometimes, they will have a bit of white along the edges of the mantle.
They cannot change the color or texture of their skin. So, they cannot camouflage themselves from predators.
Also, most octopus species display some sort of sexual dimorphism. This simply refers to when males and females are distinguishable by physical characteristics. The flapjack octopus does not have any sexual dimorphism.
They Lack Ink Sacs
Most octopuses have ink sacs that they use to protect themselves. When threatened, they can release an ink-like substance. This distracts the predator while the octopus gets away.
The flapjack octopus does not have one of these ink sacs. This is likely because they live in the deep ocean where it’d be near-impossible to see the ink anyway.
Where Do They Live?
One of the reasons these octopuses are so fascinating is that they live in the deep ocean. This is also what makes them so difficult to study.
Several members of this species were discovered in Monterey Bay, California. Small populations have also been spotted in the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. They also live off the coast of central Honshu.
It’s possible that the species only exist in small populations. But, researchers believe they likely inhibit deep oceans across the world.
Their Deep Sea Habitat
Can you imagine diving deep into the waters where these octopuses live? They live at extraordinary depths of 430-7,710ft (130-2,350m).
They are pelagic umbrella octopuses, meaning they swim in the open ocean. Still, they spend most of their time at the bottom of the sea.
At the bottom of the ocean, flapjack octopuses like to rest in the soft mud. Researchers find them around rocks as well, where they find some of their meals. But, the octopuses seem to prefer soft bottoms over rocky surfaces.
What Do They Eat?
The flapjack octopus is a carnivore who will eat almost anything it can get ahold of. Its favorite meals include small worms, crustaceans, and other small invertebrates.
Hunters & Scavengers
They find their food in the mud and rocks on the seafloor. Cirri line the arms of the octopuses. Cirri are finger-like filaments that the octopuses use to grasp their food. They will use their arms to poke around the sediment. Then, they use their cirri and sucker discs to pick up the prey.
They may also flap their arms around to stir up the sediment. This works especially well since the octopuses have webbed arms. The flat, webbed arms easily make currents to move about the sediment.
When they locate prey, they may flatten themselves out. This way, they appear less threatening. Then, they will make their move. They are formidable predators, using their sharp beaks to tear into prey.
They Lack a Radula
Most octopuses have a radula. A radula is a sharp tool located in the mouth of an octopus. They use the radula to scrape their food for easy eating. Flapjack octopuses do not have a radula.
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How Do They Reproduce?
Researchers don’t know much about the flapjack octopus’s specific mating habits. But, their mating and reproductive habits likely resemble that of other octopuses.
The male octopus will insert his hectocotylus into the female’s mantle cavity. The hectocotylus is a specialized arm that the male uses to deposit sperm.
Sometimes, insertion of the hectocotylus may not occur. Instead, the male may hand his sperm packet to the female. She will keep the sperm packet safe until she is ready to fertilize her eggs.
The deep sea is incredibly vast, so animals don’t come across members of their own species very often. As such, they have developed characteristics that increase the likelihood of reproductive success.
The females carry eggs at all times. The eggs vary in their stages of development. This way, she always has eggs ready for fertilization when she comes across a male.
When they receive the sperm, they transfer it to the most developed eggs. She may also save the sperm for when the environmental conditions are right.
Female flapjack octopuses can lay between 200-500 eggs. It isn’t surprising that they lay their eggs at the bottom of the ocean, where they spend most of their time. She will attach the eggs to available rocks or other hard surfaces.
After fertilization, the male and female go their separate ways. The male will die a few months after mating. The female will live long enough to protect her eggs. Shortly before the eggs hatch, she will also die.
The science behind their deaths isn’t fully understood yet. Still, it’s very interesting, and the changes in their bodies are complex. To dive deeper into the deaths of octopuses, check out this article!
What Do Their Lives Look Like?
Living in the deep ocean is not for the faint of heart. At the deepest depths, it is pitch black, and the pressure is incredible. The water is also extremely cold.
Most deep-sea animals are difficult to study. They’re near impossible to keep alive at the surface. The lack of pressure at the surface causes their bodies to deflate.
How Long Do They Live?
Researchers aren’t sure about the lifespan of flapjack octopuses. But, they estimate that they live between 1.4-2.6 years.
Threats & Predators
Unfortunately for the adorable flapjack octopus, they have quite a few predators. Sharks, large fishes, sperm whales, and fur seals will all target flapjack octopuses.
They Appear Invisible To Predators
They cannot camouflage themselves. Instead, they have to find other ways to defend themselves against predators. Their strategy? To hide in plain sight. This is a common strategy for many deep-sea animals since the deep ocean is so dark.
You would think the octopus would stand out with its deep orange-red coloration. But, the opposite is actually true. Red wavelengths can’t reach the depths of the deep ocean. So, to any predators there, the flapjack octopus appears nearly invisible.
They Are Fast Swimmers
Their near invisibility keeps flapjack octopuses very safe from predators. But, if a predator does get too close, they still need to be able to get away.
They will quickly get away by propelling themselves through the water. They have a funnel that pushes the water out like a jet to get them to safety. They will then steer themselves into a current with their fins. The current will whisk them away from their attacker.
These animals are difficult to study. So, researchers aren’t sure about their population numbers or conservation status. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), their population status is “data deficient.”
What Is Their Ecological Role?
Flapjack octopuses are not well-studied. So, researchers aren’t sure what significant role they may have on the environment. But, we do know that they are an important prey source for predators like sharks, large fish, and sperm whales.
The Difference Between Flapjack Octopuses & Dumbo Octopuses
There is not technically a difference between dumbo and flapjack octopuses. “Dumbo” octopus is a name used to refer to an entire genus of deepsea umbrella octopuses.
We refer to them as “dumbo” octopuses because of their large, ear-like fins at the top of their mantle. These fins closely resemble the large ears of Disney’s elephant, “Dumbo.”
Look at it this way: all flapjack octopuses are dumbo octopuses, but not all dumbo octopuses are flapjack octopuses.
Researchers know of 15 species of dumbo octopuses. Each species has eight arms connected by thin webbing, making them look like an umbrella.
Dumbo octopuses live deeper in the ocean than any other kind of octopus. Some species live as deep as 13,100ft (4,000m).
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Pearl the Flapjack Octopus In Finding Nemo
Disney’s Finding Nemo captivated the hearts of children all across the country. Although the movie is decades old, it is still one of Disney’s most popular films.
In the film, we see a character named “Pearl.” Pearl is a juvenile flapjack octopus part of Nemo’s school. (In case you’ve never seen the film, Nemo is a young clownfish who is also one of the stars of the movie).
How Does Pearl Compare To Real Flapjack Octopuses?
Like real flapjack octopuses, Pearl is orange-red in coloration. She also has two ear-like flaps on the top of her mantle.
The Mouth & Eyes
Unlike the real animals, Pearl has two eyes and a mouth at the forefront of her mantle. Of course, the animators did this to humanize Pearl and to allow her to have expressions.
In reality, the mouth sits on the underside of the body. The eyes rest at the top of the mantle near the ear-like fins. But unlike Pearl’s eyes, a real octopus’s eyes would not be blue and white.
Pearl’s arms are also very short compared to the rest of her body. In reality, a flapjack octopus’s arms make up about half the length of its body.
Walking On Land & “Inking”
In the movie, Pearl says she can walk on land and squirt ink when frightened. Both of these characteristics differ from what a real flapjack octopus can do.
Flapjack octopuses are deep-sea animals. They never get close enough to land to even attempt to walk. The pressure in the deep ocean is great. So, it’s unlikely that flapjack octopuses could function near the surface, anyway.
Plus, real flapjack octopuses lack the ability to squirt ink. Most octopuses can do this, but not deep-sea octopuses. This is likely because the deep ocean is so dark that ink would be ineffective as a distraction.
Overall, Pearl has characteristics that are the same as real flapjack octopuses. But, the animators have taken creative licenses as well. Either way, Pearl is an adorable character. She brings awareness to an equally adorable animal.
Flapjack Octopus FAQ
Can flapjack octopus ink?
Flapjack octopuses and other deep-sea octopuses lack the ability to “ink.” This is likely because they live in a part of the ocean that is already very dark. Predators likely wouldn’t even see the ink, rendering it useless for escape.
Can flapjack octopuses be pets?
No, you cannot keep a flapjack octopus as a pet. This is because not enough is known about their care and because they are deep-sea animals.
Why is the flapjack octopus pink?
Flapjack octopuses are reddish-orange in coloration because it keeps them safe. They live in the deep ocean, where it’s very dark. You would think their bright color would make them stand out, but the opposite is true.
What is the deepest living octopus?
The dumbo octopus is the deepest dwelling octopus in the world. “Dumbo” octopuses actually encompass an entire genus of octopuses (Grimpoteuthis spp.), including the flapjack octopus. These octopuses can live at depths of up to 9,800-13,000ft (3,000-4,000m).
Is the flapjack octopus’s scientific name Opisthoteuthis Adorabilis?
Their scientific name is not Opisthoteuthis adorabilis. It is actually Opisthoteuthis californiana.