Flapjack octopus

(Opisthoteuthis spp.)

This charming cephalopod made headlines for cuteness.

MBARI’s robotic submersibles often spot this little octopus resting on the mud, its orange body resembling a flat, fluffy pancake. When startled by a predator, a flapjack octopus perks up and swims to safety by flapping its stubby fins, pulsing its webbed arms, pushing water through its funnel for jet propulsion—or all three at once. When the coast is clear, it stretches its webbed arms and parachutes back to the seafloor.

Scientists think the flapjack octopus we see in Monterey Bay might be a new species. MBARI has teamed up with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to study and describe this “adorable” new species. MBARI scientists have collected detailed video observations of this octopus from the muddy floor of Monterey Canyon, and our colleagues at the Aquarium have kept some specimens alive in their Tentacles exhibition for closer study.

Fast Facts

Maximum size: 50 centimeters (20 inches) across

Depth: 130–2,350 meters (430–7,710 feet)

Habitat: on and near the seafloor

Range: worldwide

Diet: small worms, crustaceans, and other invertebrates


Research publications

To learn more about former MBARI Postdoctoral Fellow Stephanie Bush’s research to describe the “adorable” new flapjack octopus species, visit Science Friday.


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