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Scientists captured a stunning photo of two glass octopuses intertwined. They might be having deep-sea sex.

Marianne Guenot   

Scientists captured a stunning photo of two glass octopuses intertwined. They might be having deep-sea sex.
  • A deep-sea expedition caught a picture of elusive glass octopuses.
  • The nearly-see-through creatures were intertwined, which could mean they were mating. Or fighting.

A deep-sea expedition captured a picture of the elusive glass octopus, an almost completely transparent creature.

The picture shows several of the rare octopuses, formally known as Vitreledonella richardi, closely enlaced.

It could show two quite different things, said the experts running the expedition — sex, or fighting.

"This sighting of glass octopus (Vitreledonella richardi) was unusual— researchers are not sure if it is an act of predation or copulation, as it appears to be multiple octopuses intertwined," per the Schmidt Ocean Institute.

Little is known about the glass octopus, which uses its near-transparency to hide from predators.

It is likely, though, that they mate like other octopus species, meaning the male glass octopus delivers sperm to the female using his hectocotylus, or sex tentacle.

The female is oviviparous, which mean she carries the eggs in her body until they hatch.

The group which took the picture, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, is a nonprofit established by former Google executive Eric Schmidt and his wife, the philanthropist Wendy Schmidt.

It gives scientists the chance to undertake expeditions with its use of its remote submersible, called Falkor (too).

The glass octopuses were captured as part of an expedition in a 100-square-mile patch of deep-sea floor off the coast of Costa Rica.

It was led by the Maine-based Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and the University of Costa Rica.

The team returned to underwater hot springs it uncovered six months prior that were hosting a nursery covered in tiny octopuses.

The animals were found in a characteristic position — suckers out with tentacles wrapped around their body — which likely means they were brooding their eggs and warding off predators.

"When a female octopus broods (which can be a timespan of multiple years), she does not eat and dies around the same time her eggs hatch," per the Institute's press materials.

Scientists now believe they uncovered four new species of octopus as they watched some hatchlings emerge from the eggs.

The findings are being examined by the Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Costa Rica.

In the meantime, the researchers tentatively decided to name one of the new species Dorado Octopus, after the nickname of the underwater location where they were initially spotted, El Dorado hill.




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