Deep-Sea Scientists Photographed Rare ‘Glass Octopus’

During a deep-sea dive in the central Pacific Ocean, scientists were able to photograph a rare “glass octopus.”

The ground-breaking expedition was the second of its kind, building onto an expedition that took place in 2017.

The purpose was to map the seafloor and study coral and sponges, and marine scientists used the Schmidt Ocean Institue Research vessel Falkor to spend 34 days exploring.


The scientists performed high-resolution seafloor mapping, spanning over 30,000 square kilometers around the remote Phoenix Islands archipelago. They also used five seamounts and performed camera exploration in what’s being known as “the most comprehensive study of deep sea coral and sponge ecosystems in this part of the world.”

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According to a press release, not only did scientists discover “likely new marine species and deep-sea organisms” and capture the first footage of a deep-sea whale shark, but they were also able to document the sighting of an incredibly rare glass octopus.

Photo: Schmidt Ocean Institute

Glass octopi are nearly transparent, with only their optic nerve, digestive tract, and eyeballs visible. The rest of their body is clear. The elusive creature is rarely sighted, and there wasn’t much material for researchers to study it with.

In the press release, they explained, “Before this expedition, there has been limited live footage of the glass octopus, forcing scientists to learn about the animal by studying specimens found in the gut contents of predators.”

Photo: Schmidt Ocean Institute
Photo: Schmidt Ocean Institute

Expedition Chief Scientist Dr. Randi Rotjan said, “It has been very inspiring to help document the biodiversity of unexplored seamounts on the high seas and in U.S. waters.” They added that thinking about conservation for these hardly-explored areas is necessary and it’s hoped that the research they performed can help inform policymaking in regards to conservation efforts.

The co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute, Wendy Schmidt, said in the press release:

“The Ocean holds wonders and promises we haven’t even imagined, much less discovered. Expeditions like these teach us why we need to increase our efforts to restore and better understand marine ecosystems everywhere–because the great chain of life that begins in the ocean is critical for human health and wellbeing.”

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