Weird, adorable Cirrate octopus swims through the ocean

This lovely orange Cirrate octopus appears to be the long-lost love child of a sock puppet and a dance recital costume. Filmed in the Taney Seamounts, west of San Francisco, it's part of a branch of the octopus family that is very elusive—preferring deep, dark waters far from the coastline—very rare—they only make up about 15% of all octopus species—and very, very old. In fact, what is thought to be the oldest octopus fossil yet found is a cirrate, dating around 296 million years old.

Cirrate octopuses are also very weird. We don't know a whole lot about their anatomy and physiology, but we do know that they lack "typical" octopus features, like ink sacs and the ability to move around by jet propulsion. Instead, cirrates swim using those fins on the sides of their heads. As for the eponymous "cirra", those are little filaments, similar to the cilia that line your nose, which are paired up with every sucker on a Cirrate octopus' arm. Nobody knows exactly what they do, but they may be involved, somehow, in trapping and handling of food.

Thanks to hectocotyli for the video! And to Dr. M for filming it!


    1. Octopus = 8 legs
      Squid = 10 legs

      The malacologists use a taxonomy that categorises some of the legs as “arms” and some of them as “tentacles” but for rapid identification the number of legs works fine as a delineator.

      1. Miyazaki is probably the greatest living animator. You should especially check out My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind. Make sure you get the 2005 version of Nausicaä, and not the horribly butchered New World Pictures release.

        Not everyone’s cup of tea; if you’re into Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Caligula you will probably not like Miyazaki. His stuff is mostly what the industry likes to call “family friendly”.

  1. Oooh very pretty!

    But… only 15% of octopus species is “very rare”?
    Pigeons make up “only” 3% of bird species(300 pigeon species out of 10,000 bird species, according to wikipedia ;) )

  2. OK part of my confusion comes from my very favorite Vampire squid being misidentified as a squid. It looks like they are part of the same group.

  3. Even though i saw the ‘C’ (and ignored the extra ‘r’) I had never heard of Cirrate octopuses and was a teeny bit disappointed not to see an irate octopus.

    Nonetheless, a beautiful video.

  4. I love that you first look at the fins and see them for what they are, fins, and then you see the location of the eyes, and finally recognize the fins for what they truly are: ridiculous flopping ears.

  5. ZOMG!!! squid-octopi missing link??? Flappy things seem to be morphologically more important than leg count. I refer back to the notion of walks like a duck…

    1. A funny trend in biology is that the more morphologically important something is, the less important it is for classification. This is because whether you have fins or wings is something that is important to survival, so undergoes lots of natural selection, but exactly where the articulations are in bones doesn’t matter, so rarely changes.

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