Animal of the Week: the Pancake Octopus
By Sara Umbrell, Layout Director
Brought to you by the request of Griffin supporter and enthusiast Lio Salazar, this week’s animal is the pancake octopus. This creature may look somewhat familiar to some of you because of its supporting role in the hit movie “Finding Nemo” as Pearl!
The pancake octopus is found in oceans all across the globe in depths ranging from 430 feet to 7,710 feet. This octopus, like other octopi, is a cephalopod, but it belongs to the cirrate octopods while other octopi belong to the incirrate group. The main difference between them is that cirrate octopus have a small internal shell and two small fins on their head, and incirrate don’t. Cirrate octopus also lack an ink sac, which makes them unable to squirt ink.
Unfortunately, not a whole lot is known about these ocean-dwelling pancakes, as they are difficult to observe in the wild. They are typically found on the sea floor in areas that are very silty and don’t contain many rocks. The typical diet of a pancake octopus consists of the various invertebrates that inhabit the sediment: to find food, this octopus will search the sea floor with its tentacles, stirring up anything that’s currently there. It then entraps food with its tentacles and brings it to its mouth.
The pancake octopus has a variety of marine predators, including sharks, fish, fur seals and sperm whales. To us, the pancake octopus looks yellow or red, and it seems easily visible in the middle of the ocean, right? Wrong. Red light cannot penetrate the oceanic depths where the pancake octopus is found, making them appear dark and allowing them to remain hidden. However, if they are spotted, they can pulse their body, creating what resembles a jet fuel pump to pulse its way to safety.
Due to how little is known about them, their conservation status has not been evaluated yet. But for what they’ve got going for them, and what is known about them, these breakfast-shaped octopi seem to be doing pretty well and hold their own in the deep blue sea.