The dumbo octopus is a notoriously difficult subject to study. It lives at depths between 9,800 and 13,000 feet (3,000 and 4,000 meters), and that alone makes it a tricky critter to observe. Additionally, we've never been able to see a baby dumbo hatch, limiting our understanding of this umbrella octopus' maturation cycle.
That is until now.
Recorded in 2005 and released in a study featured in the Feb. 19, 2018 issue of Current Biology, a video shows a freshly hatched dumbo octopus, and it has the species' iconic ear-like fins -- the octopus is named after the famed Disney elephant -- right from the get-go.
In addition to living at such incredible depths, the young dumbo octopus has been hard to track because it hides its eggs in coral to give them the best chance to survive. Scientists didn't even know what kind of eggs they had when they first spotted them.
The study's co-author, Tim Shank, collected what turned out to be dumbo octopus eggs in 2005, during a Deep Atlantic Stepping Stones cruise. The cruise uses remotely operated vehicles to explore the New England and Corner Rise Seamount chains in the Northwest Atlantic, according to a press release regarding the study. The eggs Shank collected looked like tan-colored golf balls stuck to coral.
"With each successive collection, it became apparent that this was some sort of an egg case," Shank said in the statement. "The first few were open and empty, the next two contained a white gelatinous mass within, and the final collection yielded the specimen described in the paper."
The hatchling didn't move much after it extracted itself from the egg, but it began to swim for around 10 minutes, some of which was captured in the video above. Afterward, researchers used an MRI scan to take a peek at the hatchling's anatomy and determined it belonged to the genus Grimpoteuthis.
What the MRI revealed was that the dumbo octopuses emerge from their eggs almost fully formed, including all the features needed for fin swimming and sensing their surrounding environment. The study says that these babies actually hatch as "competent juveniles."
"The virtual exploration and 3-D reconstruction of the internal anatomy of this deep-sea creature was particularly revealing," study co-author Alexander Ziegler, from Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn in Germany, said in the statement. "I was impressed by the complexity of the central nervous system and the relative size of fins and the internal shell."
Hatching in such a well-formed state, the scientists figured, could provide a jump start on their development and give them an edge when it comes to surviving in the depths of the ocean.
It also means that they're just always very adorable.