Nothing about the hundreds of octopus mothers on the video feed from the dive boat Alvin looked right.
"This octopus should not be there," Janet Voight, a marine biologist at the Field Museum in Chicago, said when she saw the footage
The research vessel explored a promontory about 1
With the help of Voigt, Hartwell identified the numerous cephalopods as part of the genus Muusoctopus and possibly even a new species in science. These octopuses are solitary and occasionally cannibalistic.
But first she had to find out why they were there – and why so many of them had gathered on such a small area.
Rocky Real Estate
Probably because the Dorado outcrop is valuable property, as Hartwell discovered
Most of the seabed is covered with soft mud known as sea snow, a collection of organic debris that drifts to the bottom. Octopi can not brood under these conditions.
Although much of the ocean's water around the outcrop is colder than normal, hot hydrothermal vents criss-cross the region – and it's these warmer spots that attracted the octopus. (Read about another deep-sea creature laying its eggs on hydrothermal wells.)
"There were so many of them that I thought they were all very happy first," says Hartwell.
Like Hartwell and Voight, they examined the Alvin recordings, but noticed something strange. None of the eggs developed, and all mothers showed signs of severe stress.
According to the octopus expert Jennifer Mather, who was not involved in the study, the water in the cracks is probably too hot for the deep-sea invertebrates.
But with so few places to lay their eggs, the mothers have little choice but to endure the oppressive conditions, Hartwell and colleagues conclude in their study recently published in the journal ] Deep Sea Research Part I .
"This study reminds us that the deep sea is not a unified environment, there are many different microhabitats that can exploit life," says Mather of Albertas University of Lethbridge
It's not that surprising Considering sacrifices is nothing new to Kraken. (Read about wild pet mothers who go to extremes for their babies.) In 2011, researchers began to observe Graneledone boreopacifica female in front of central California, their eggs amazing for 4.5 years guarded. This is the longest known developmental period for each animal.