The Schmidt Ocean Institute has announced the finding of a deep sea octopus nursery off the coast of Costa Rica. This marks only the third known nursery of its kind, shedding light on the mysterious world beneath the ocean’s surface.

Dr Jyotika Virmani, an executive director at the Schmidt Ocean Institute, expressed her excitement about the finding in a statement published on Wednesday. She stated, “The discovery of a new active octopus nursery over 2800 metres beneath the sea surface in Costa Rican waters proves there is still so much to learn about our ocean.”

The exploration was conducted by a team of 18 international scientists aboard the Institute’s research vessel, the Falkor. They were equipped with the ROV SuBastian, an underwater robot, which was used to study seamounts and observe the baby octopuses.

One of their main objectives was to explore the Dorado Outcrop, a rock formation located approximately 9,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. In 2013, researchers first witnessed octopus mothers gathering at this site to brood their eggs. This was the first time scientists had ever seen that happen, so at the time, the researchers were not sure if the nursery was viable. Deep sea octopuses usually prefer colder temperatures, but the outcrop is next to a hydrothermal vent which causes the surrounding waters to be warmer.

Back during the initial exploration in 2013, scientists also did not observe any developing embryos, raising doubts about the potential for octopus growth at the Dorado Outcrop. Nevertheless, their recent expedition confirmed that the site is an ”active nursery’ where baby octopuses hatch. The researchers have also discovered another previously unknown nursery in the same general area. With these new findings, the total number of known octopus nurseries has now reached three, including one off the coast of Monterey, California.

According to the Schmidt Ocean news release, the octopuses found in these nurseries likely belong to the Genus Muusoctopus, which are small to medium deep sea octopuses that lack ink sacs. The release also suggests that these octopuses may represent a new species of Muusoctopus, although further confirmation is required.

The implications of this research extend beyond the discovery itself. The newfound nurseries could play a pivotal role in determining the need for protection of the seamounts in the area. Currently, there are no regulations in place safeguarding these important habitats from human activities. Understanding the ecology and significance of these nurseries is crucial for informed decision-making regarding conservation efforts.

The Schmidt Ocean Institute, established in 2009 as a private nonprofit operating foundation, aims to advance oceanographic research, discovery, and knowledge. Through their commitment to technological innovation and open sharing of information, the Institute seeks to accelerate the understanding of the world’s oceans. The recent discovery of the deep sea octopus nurseries exemplifies the Institute’s dedication to unravelling the mysteries of the deep.