- The world’s largest octopus — the giant Pacific octopus — is actually represented by more than one species.
- New research indicates there are at least two species of octopus housed under what is traditionally called the giant Pacific octopus.
- The new species is called the frilled giant Pacific octopus.
- The giant Pacific octopus can weigh up to 70 kilograms (150 pounds).
The world’s largest octopus — the giant Pacific octopus — is actually represented by more than one species, according to new research led by an undergraduate student at Alaska Pacific University.
The study, published in American Malacological Bulletin, describes a second species of the giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) based on DNA samples and visual observations of octopuses collected in shrimp pots laid by fishermen in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. The newly distinguished species is called the frilled giant Pacific octopus for the distinctive “frill” that runs the length of its body. A formal description of the species is forthcoming.
The visual confirmation of the new species was completed by Nate Hollenbeck, who undertook the research as his senior thesis at at Alaska Pacific University. Hollenbeck’s co-author is his advisor David Scheel.
The findings aren’t a huge surprise, according to a story in Earther, which notes that “Scientists have suspected for decades that giant Pacific octopus might be an ‘umbrella name’ covering more than one species.”
The results suggest that further research may yield more cryptic species currently classified under the giant Pacific octopus, whose range rings the Pacific from California to Japan.
- Hollenbeck, N. and D. Scheel. 2017. Body patterns of the frilled giant Pacific octopus, a new species of octopus from Prince William Sound, AK. American Malacological Bulletin 35(2): 134-144.