The Giant Pacific Octopus Has Been Two Species All Along

Image via Jeff Rotman / Getty

We’ve all been living an octopi lie.

The Giant Pacific octopus, the largest known octopus on the planet, is in fact two different species. An Alaskan researcher has discovered that some of the animals once classified as GPOs may actually be a new animal named the “frilled giant octopus” (Latin name forthcoming), according to Earther.

For his senior thesis, Alaska Pacific University student Nathan Hollenbeck set out to figure if the GPO was in fact more than just the GPO, which scientists have long believed. He did so by studying a shrimp fishing bycatch, in which the big squids are often caught dining on the smaller shellfish.

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Just by simply looking at the octopuses caught in the shrimp traps, Hollenbeck observed differences in the large cephalopods. He then snipped off small pieces of arms and took cotton swabs for DNA analysis from the sequestered squids. After studying the samples, Hollenbeck and his advisor David Scheel determined that the frilled variants are sufficiently different to be qualified as a separate species. As for why it’s taken so long to distinguish between the two, the frilled guys seem to prefer much deeper water where divers and others won’t usually spot them.

Scheel told Earther he would be comparing the new giant to other smaller species that also sport a frilled exterior to investigate patterns in habitat usage.

Read Hollenbeck and Scheel’s findings at the Alaska Octopus Projects.



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