Scientists manning the exploration vessel Nautilus and its remotely operated vehicles spotted something truly adorable recently: Just off the coast of California, hanging out 3,000 feet below the surface, they saw what looked to be a googly-eyed cartoon octopus.
This adorable critter is called Rossia pacifica, but it's more commonly known as the stubby squid. Despite looking like an octopus and being called a squid, it's actually neither — it's most closely related to the cuttlefish. Their round mantles look quite similar to those seen on cuttlefish — something one of the researchers points out in the video while (almost) identifying the creature — but they lack the gas-filled cuttlebone that their cousins use for buoyancy control.
Stubby squid (or bobtail squid, or even dumpling squid) tend to stay on the ocean floor like their octopus cousins, but have the same number of tentacles as squid (eight thick limbs with suckers, plus two long arms). The animals like to bury themselves in the sand during the day. They do this as cutely as they do everything else, sinking into a depression and then throwing sand on themselves with their tentacles. When they're caught out in the open by remote vehicle cameras at night, they often appear wide-eyed and transfixed by the bright light.
This creature is not to be confused with Teuthowenia pellucida, an animal widely known as the googly-eyed glass squid, which (in addition to being quite googly-eyed) is actually a squid. But vampire squids aren't squids. Try to keep up.
The EV Nautilus, run by the Exploration Trust, is streaming its current expedition of the Pacific live online. This isn't the first cool thing they've come across while trawling the deep: They recently examined a mysterious purple orb and found a natural whale fall — the sunken carcass of a majestic marine mammal — on the ocean floor. So if you're not watching their live streams, it might be time to check them out. You might be one of the first humans to observe something entirely new.
Or just entirely adorable.