This Sneaky Octopus Species Managed to Bamboozle Scientists for Years

What a trickster.

Flickr / Matt Biddulph

Cephalopods have been quietly plotting their revenge against humanity for years, pranking the people that keep them in captivity, escaping from aquariums, and even forming octopus colonies. While we think we’re onto cephalopods’ games, a newly discovered species of giant octopus shows how little we know about these wonderful weirdos.

On Monday, Earther reported on the octopus in question — a second species of giant Pacific octopus, aptly named the frilled giant Pacific octopus. It took researchers from Alaska Pacific University (APU) several years to actually collect enough evidence to declare they’d discovered species separate from the giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini), though they suspect local fishers have been catching these octopuses for decades.

In order to finally confirm the existence of these elusive octopuses, APU undergrad student Nate Hollenbeck observed shrimp fisher’s catches for his senior thesis. This made sense, considering sometimes, hungry octopuses climb into a fisher’s pot to grab some grub. Sure enough, Hollenbeck was able to make out two visually distinct kinds of giant Pacific octopus — one of them had raised “frills” on its skin and two spots on the front of its head.

A regular, shmegular, giant Pacific octopus.

Flickr / papertygre

Of course, Hollenbeck did more than just pick out one unusual octopus from a lineup. He cut off snippets of both species of octopuses’ arms and swabbed their skin for DNA, which confirmed that they were indeed two different species of giant octopus. Hollenbeck and his advisor, Professor David Scheel, published their discovery in the American Malacological Bulletin this November.

“Presumably, people have been catching these octopuses for years and no one ever noticed,” Scheel tells Earther.

Little is known about this new species’ lifestyle, or what its conservation status could be. At least researchers have something to work with now — confirmation that the cephalopod army is even more varied than we thought.

While all octopuses are unique in their own ways, let’s not forget their common desire for revenge.

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