Watch Rare Video of Ghostly Dumbo Octopus in the Deep Sea

Behold the flappy ears of one of the cutest ocean creatures known to humankind.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
A ghostly whitish octopus with arms extending out and flappy ears swims in darkness.
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A ghostly whitish octopus with arms extending out and flappy ears swims in darkness.

The EV Nautilus crew spotted this dumbo octopus while exploring a marine national monument in September 2023.

Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Graceful. Adorable. Ghostly. Beautiful. All these words apply to the dumbo octopus, a rarely seen deep-sea dweller that's captured the imagination and adoration of ocean fans. Exploration Vessel Nautilus captured stunning footage of a dumbo octopus out for a relaxing swim. It's mesmerizing to behold.

The small octopus gets its Disneyfied nickname from a pair of fins that look like ears, much like those on the elephant hero of famous Disney flick Dumbo. Nautilus recorded the multiarmed animal through the eyes of a remotely operated vehicle capable of scanning the ocean depths. Give the clip a watch:

The octopus appeared at an unnamed seamount 5,518 feet (1,682 meters) deep in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument near Hawaii, which has been called the largest contiguous fully protected conservation area in the US. The monument covers 582,578 square miles (1,508,870 square kilometers) of the Pacific Ocean to the northwest of the Hawaiian Islands. You could combine all national parks in the US and fit them inside.

Nautilus, operated by the nonprofit Ocean Exploration Trust, is at the end of its Ala ʻAumoana Kai Uli expedition, a monthlong exploration of previously unseen deep-sea areas in the national monument. The expedition has involved seafloor mapping operations and remotely operated vehicle dives to gather data on the area's geologic history, wildlife and cultural resources, including World War II shipwrecks. Funding for the work comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ocean Exploration program.

One of the great joys of watching EV Nautilus videos is getting to hear the excited commentary from scientists viewing the footage in real time. When the octopus appears, multiple voices exclaim, "Oh!" Some choice comments include "Ohh, the flappy ears!" and "It's so graceful." The crew was especially delighted to see the healthy octopus after having previously spotted a deceased one that was being eaten.

The dark reaches of the ocean are sometimes seen as a scary place, but the presence of the cartoonlike octopus puts a friendly face on the deep. It's a world of wonders.