26 July 2019

A rare and unforgettable sight: The rainbow-colored blanket octopus

What's better than seeing a rare sea creature? Well, seeing two of them and capturing them on camera, of course!

The deep sea never fails to amaze us with bouts of often odd and elusive, yet all the more wonderful creatures.

Take the recent sighting of the rare blanket octopus, which the lucky cameraman Joseph Elayani was able to encounter and film in the wild. On a night dive in the open sea at Romblon (Philippines), at depths of 9-22 m [1], he caught sight of not only one but a pair of female rainbow-colored blanket octopus. It was a glorious moment for Elayani as he witnessed the rapidly shifting colors of the arms, from hues of pastel blues and purple to stunning reds and oranges. This change in color is deemed to be the octopus' reaction from the different light levels of the camera or as a strategy to ward off predators [2].

Credits to Joseph Elayani via Cater News

Blanket octopuses are pelagic creatures found in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and the Pacific, in tropical to subtropical waters. They belong to the genus Tremoctopus [3]. It got its name from the sheets of webbing that extend between some of their arms [4]. 

Octopus, in general, are known to be masters of disguise, changing color patters to blend to their environment and escape predators or sneak on their prey or even mimic other species. Blanket octopus, meanwhile, are known to spread their majestic arms out to drive away would-be predators [4].

One of the things that make them odd is the sheer size difference between sexes: while males are less than an inch long, females can grow up to six feet long and weigh up to 40,000 more than males. It's also unusual that they are immune to the stinging cells of the perilous jellyfish Portuguese man-of-war, which it uses as a weapon against predators [4]. 

Current population data on blanket octopus is unknown [4]. For the meantime, immerse in the beauty that these two lovely octopuses have to offer.

We welcome collaboration with marine scientists and enthusiasts alike. If you have more information or photos on blanket octopuses, you can leave us a message at sealifebase[at]gmail[dot]com.

[1] Good News Pilipinas. Rare rainbow-colored blanket octopus caught on diver’s camera in Romblon waters. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2Y3HEVL

[2] Best, S. (18 Jun 2019). Stunning rainbow blanket octopuses spotted swimming in depths of ocean. Mirror Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2YiRpKU

[3] Turgeon, D.D.; Quinn, J.F. Jr.; Bogan, A.E.; Coan, E.V.; Hochberg, F.G.; Lyons, W.G.; Mikkelsen, P.M.; Neves, R.J.; Roper, C.F.E.; Rosenberg, G.; Roth, B. (1998). Common and scientific names of aquatic invertebrates from the United States and Canada: Mollusks, 2nd ed. American Fisheries Society (Special publication 26), Bethesda, Maryland. 526 p.

[4] National Geographic. Blanket octopus. Retrieved from https://on.natgeo.com/32VuskK

[5] USA Today (4 June 2019). Rare 'rainbow' blanket octopuses caught on camera in the Phillippines | USA TODAY. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2L92yem

22 May 2019

The role of biodiversity in human health

The United Nations has marked May 22 as The International Day for Biological Diversity to raise awareness and understanding of biodiversity issues. 

This year's theme, "Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health," focuses on the invaluable role of biological diversity in human health and well-being. We can show our appreciation for the resources nature provides us every day by truly understanding (or simply reminding ourselves) where we get our resources for good health—the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breatheBy doing so, we are putting first the species and the ecosystems that keep our health in check and make our lives worthwhile. 

We can be a catalyst of change in small ways, be it by buying local food or using recyclable bags.

Here in SeaLifeBase, we celebrate marine biodiversity, from foraminiferans to cetaceans, from which we depend a lot for our health and well-being. If you're keen to learn more, visit us here.

29 April 2019

Q-quatics welcomes its new researchers!

Two new fresh graduates, Selina De Leon and Fayte Sicnawa, jump on board the Q-quatics team last April 1. They have since been involved in the identification of fishes in partnership with the University of Western Australia and the carry forward of global fisheries catch reconstructions led by the Sea Around Us.

Selina De Leon, a BS Biology graduate, hails from the University of the Philippines Diliman. She took up courses on marine sciences, ichthyology, ecology, biodiversity, and conservation. Selina’s fascination for the ocean started when she saw the iconic BBC documentary series Blue Planet. That made her want to study marine life and experience it up close. Last Aril 2018, she volunteered for the humpback whale research expedition (Balyena.org) in Camiguin Island, Calayan, Cagayan.

Fayte Sicnawa, a member of the Indigenous People of Kalinga, studied BS Biology major in Wildlife Biology at the University of the Philippines Los BaƱos. Upon graduation, she went on to teach Chemistry, Biology and Environmental Science at Trace College for a year. As a wildlife biologist, she’s aware of the decline in the sheer biodiversity of species in the country. She therefore feels strongly about the need for their conservation. She believes that the training she'll get in Q-quatics would leverage this passion. Today, she’s pursuing a master’s degree in Wildlife Biology.

Welcome aboard,  Selena and Fayte!

20 March 2019

Creature feature: Meet the dumbo octopus

Illustration by Maxeen Bayer based on the Disney character Dumbo

Deep in the ocean floor lives an octopus, its common name derived from the Disney character Dumbo who can fly with its big ears. Just as the sky is for the endearing elephant, the dumbo octopus hails from the deep, steering the waters by flapping its ear-like fins [1].

To date, there are 21 known species of dumbo octopus (Grimpoteuthis) [2]. Being bathypelagic animals, they live 13,000 feet below water (or almost 4000 m) and are rarely seen in shallow waters. They live in tropical to temperate latitudes and have been observed in New Zealand, California, Oregon, Philippines, and in other areas [3].

Dumbo octopus comes in different sizes, shapes, and colors. Its average size is 20 to 30 cm (7.9 to 12 inches) in length and its mantle, either U- or V-shaped. Like other families of octopi, their tentacles are umbrella-shaped, characterized by webbing between their tentacles, which help them navigate while swimming and crawling on the surface. Their ear-like lateral fins also help them propel around the water [4].

Grimpoteuthis has large eyes, about a third the diameter of their head, but it has limited use in the eternal darkness of the deep oceans. However, to defend itself against predators, it uses its ability to change color and camouflage against the ocean floor. When it camouflages, the ears emit a different color than the rest of its body [4].

They are carnivorous, eating isopods, amphipods, bristle worms and more. Their mouth is different from their kin, engulfing their prey rather than grinding and ripping [1].

The male octopus has a special protuberance in one of its 8 tentacles used to deliver the sperm to a female octopus, which the octopus stores until conditions are favorable for laying eggs on shells or small rocks on the seafloor. Young dumbo octopi are large when they are born and must survive on their own. They can live for 3 to 5 years [1].

Very little is known about these creatures. If you have more information on dumbo octopus, SeaLifeBase welcomes collaboration. Kindly send us a message at sealifebase(at)q-quatics(dot)org.

Written by Maxeen Danielle Bayer

[1] Helmenstine, A.M. (2018, April 24). All about Grimpoteuthis, the dumbo octopus. ThoughtCo. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2W3CUtP
[2] WoRMS Editorial Board (2019). World Register of Marine Species. Available from http://www.marinespecies.org at VLIZ. Accessed 2019-03-15. doi.10.14284/170
[3] Oceana. Cephalopods, crustaceans and other shellfish: dumbo octopus. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2Jfo2qM
[4] Ocean Conservancy (2018, October 8). Everything you need to know about the dumbo octopus. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2OAYNBg
[5] National Geographic (2018, October 29). Rare dumbo octopus shows off for deep-sea submersible. YouTube. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2u9gcEP

04 March 2019

World Wildlife Day 2019 celebrates marine life

Photo from UNDP

United Nations World Wildlife Day has been celebrating the sheer diversity of plants and animals for six years now by raising awareness on the threats they're facing through a series of events across the globe. 

Inspired by UN's 14th Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs)—life below water—this year marks the first ever World Wildlife Day to celebrate the huge importance of marine life in our everyday lives. It also commemorates the establishment of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), a treaty which underscores the protection of all endangered plants and animals.

This event gives the opportunity to highlight critical issues faced by marine life, commend successful initiatives for their conservation and scale up future endeavors towards sustaining them for future generations.

One of the major concerns that this campaign addresses is plastic pollution, in which 57 countries have already vowed to reduce their use of single-use and non-recoverable plastics.  

It's a step further to know more about the marine species we need to protect. And SeaLifeBase hosts this information. If you're keen to dive deep into the threatened non-fish marine species in the Philippines (and around the world), you may visit SeaLifeBase.