New octopus species brings wave of excitement to Lizard Island


New octopus species.
Image: Julian Finn

 

Tuesday 17 February 2009
 
A LITTLE visitor has caused a lot of excitement on Lizard Island this week.
 
A pygmy octopus was recovered from one of the ARMS and cephalopod experts Julian Finn and John Ahern have confirmed it as a new species.
 
Julian said the octopus had a number of clearly visible features that defined it as a previously undescribed species.
 
"It has a larger number of enlarged suckers on its arms, than other species" he said.
 
"And the chromataphore pattern on the base of the body is distinctly different."
 
Julian estimated there were about 14 species of octopus around Lizard Island, with a number of them undescribed.
 
He said there were a couple of reasons why a high level predator like an octopus could remain undetected in a research zone for so long.
 
Number one was that these types of octopuses tended to stay hidden deep in the coral and would normally only be detected if a coral head was brought to the surface and broken up.
 
"It's because of the sort of sampling we can do with the ARMS that this find has been made possible," Julian said.
 
The other reason is that in the past, pygmy octopuses have been misidentified as younger versions of other octopuses rather than as their own species.
 
The new specimen has been photographed, sampled and preserved.
 
Now Julian and John have turned their attention to examining the rest of the reefs around Lizard Island to see what else they can discover.
 
"There are so many different habitats that haven't been surveyed before," Julian said.
 
"Without a doubt there are more undescribed species in this reef."