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Scientists find four new octopus species off Costa Rica

A new octopus hatchling swims away from its egg near a small outcrop of rock unofficially called El Dorado Hill. It's a member of the Dorado octopus species, named for the area where it was discovered. (ROV SuBastian/Schmidt Ocean Institute)
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Scientists discovered at least four new species of deep-sea octopus off the Costa Rica coast in 2023, researchers announced last week. The finds took place during two expeditions devoted to exploring an underwater mountain home to an octopus nursery.

The expeditions, which took place in June and December, brought an international group of marine scientists to a little-studied site off Costa Rica’s west coast. Known as the Dorado Outcrop, the seamount below was first discovered in 2013, when a remote vehicle discovered a deep-sea hydrothermal vent that served as a nursery to female octopuses and their offspring.

Scientists found two octopus nurseries during the June expedition and in December confirmed they are active year-round, according to a news release from the Schmidt Ocean Institute, whose research vessel Falkor (too) acted as a mobile lab for scientists from the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, the University of Costa Rica and other institutions.

One of the newly identified octopus species probably evolved to take advantage of the springs’ warmth, using it to keep their eggs warm as they incubate on the seafloor. Researchers observed that new species, a kind of Muusoctopus they named the Dorado Octopus, brooding their eggs alongside the vent. They believe it is related to another relatively new octopus species, the Pearl Octopus, which was discovered in 2018 at a California seamount two miles beneath the surface. The other newly identified species were found away from the underwater hot springs.

Other discoveries during the expeditions included a deep-sea skate nursery and three hydrothermal springs with different chemical profiles and temperatures, suggesting there is even more to discover about the abundant life that lies deep in the ocean.

Next, researchers will work to describe the new species and study biological specimens collected during the expedition, which will be archived at the University of Costa Rica’s zoology museum.