Ghost-Like Octopus In Peril Because Of Deep Sea Mining

First Posted: Dec 21, 2016 05:58 AM EST

Earlier this year, researchers made headlines after discovering Casper, a translucent octopus in the deep waters off the cost of Hawaii. Now, a new study reveals the creature is in peril because of deep sea mining of valuable metals used in computers and mobile phones.

Published in the journal Current Biology, a team of German-American biologists said that these octopuses actually lay their eggs onto sponges that only grow locally on manganese nodules. They are specifically dependent on these nodules for brooding eggs.

Unfortunately, these stalks are rich in manganese, as well as other valuable metals used to manufacture computers and cell phones. Deep sea mining has been contemplated for decades, but only recently that it became technologically feasible. It triggered concerns over the potential impacts on deep sea life, especially the creatures that live thousands of feet under the sea, Australian reports.

"Until we made these observations, we had assumed that these octopuses only occur at depths of up to 2600 meters. But the species discovered can now be seen to colonize much greater depths," Dr. Autun Purser, lead author of the study, said in a press release by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI).

The Importance Of Manganese Nodules To Casper Species

Without these manganese nodules, the octopuses cannot find another brooding ground. Two of the octopuses were captured by the camera system used by the researchers to guard their eggs. The manganese nodules served as the only anchoring point for the sponges and the muddy floor.

Without the manganese nodules, the sponges would not survive the area. Hence, without the sponges, the octopuses would not have a place to lay their eggs.

"Our new observations show that we have to know about the behavior of deep-sea animals and the specific way in which they adapt to their habitat in order to draw up sustainable protective and usage concepts," Antje Boetius, head of the Sonne expedition to the Peru Basin, said in a statement.

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