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Aquarium of the Pacific - Online Learning Center - Species Print Sheet

Conservation Status:  Data deficient

Climate Change:  Uncertain

Aquatic SpeciesDumbo Octopus

. Grimpoteuthis spp. CephalopodsMollusks, marine

Dumbo Octopus The Dumbo octopus, appropriately named after the Disney character, Dumbo, the Flying elephant | (c) 1999 MBARI
Dumbo Octopus - popup
The Dumbo octopus, appropriately named after the Disney character, Dumbo, the Flying elephant (c) 1999 MBARI

Species In-Depth | Print full entry

Geographic Distribution

Worldwide having been found in New Zealand and Australia, Monterey Bay, California; Oregon, Philippines and in Papua, New Guinea


Grimpoteuthis spp, known as the deepest living of all octopus species, live on the bottom, or hovering just slightly above the seafloor at depths of depths of 3000 to 4000 m (9800 to 13000 ft), with some living as deep as 7,000 m (23000 ft) below sea level.

Physical Characteristics

Dumbo octopus have a semi-translucent body with an internal “U” or “V” cartilaginous shell or mantle, which gives them some shape. Some Dumbos are short, squat and yellow, while others resemble a sea jelly with one giant, brown, walking shoe. Some have suckers, in addition to spines, on all of their webbed tentacles while others look more like a traditional octopus with the addition of blue or other colored “ears.” Prominent ear-like fins protrude from the mantle just above the almost sightless eyes of the octopus. They have eight webbed tentacles.


Most species are 20-30 cm (7.9-12 in) length. The largest Dumbo octopus was 1.8 m (6 ft 32in) length and weighed in 5.9 kg (13 lb)


Dumbo octopuses pounce on prey and eat it whole. Their diet includes copepods, isopods, bristle worms, and amphipods. Much of the food they consume is also found around ocean vent ecosystems or floating along in the current.


Grimpoteuthis has one of the most unusual breeding capabilities of any marine life. Females necropsied have shown eggs in various stages of maturation which means that there is no breeding season and females can lay eggs continuously under small rocks or on shells in the deep ocean. Males have a separate protuberance on one of their arms that transports an encapsulated sperm packet into the female’s mantle. It is thought the female can utilize sperm for fertilization at almost any time.


Neutrally buoyant, they have several observed types of mobility. Flapping their Dumbo ear-like fins gets them moving with peculiar grace and ease. Expanding and contracting the webbing between their tentacles or by shooting water through their funnel cause a sudden thrust, useful for escaping a predator. Any of these methods for movement can be used separately or simultaneously. These octopus can also do the more ordinary octopus movements such as crawling on their tentacles.


Deep-water creatures, the Grimpoteuthis appear to have adapted to the intense pressure and cold temperatures of the deep ocean by forgoing propulsion and growing mantle fins. Their reproduction schedule appears to be on-going, so they out-pace more shallow-water octopus species.


Little is known about Dumbo octopus and they have not been evaluated for population status.