A rare and mysterious octopus was recently filmed with prey for the first time ever, and it turns out it eats jellyfish.
The giant octopus, named Haliprhon atlanticus, was spotted carrying an egg-yolk jellyfish in its mouth while taking care to let the toxic tentacles hang free. Researchers think the cephalopod might have been strategically using the jelly’s sticky arms and tentacles as a tool, while it devoured the bell with its beak.
H. atlanticus is one of the largest known species of octopus, growing up to 13 feet long and weighing up to 165 pounds.
The female specimen captured on film was spotted by researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute more than 1,200 feet below the ocean’s surface. However, not much is known about these creatures which reside at depths that scientists can’t access easily.
Species this large aren’t known to feed on jellyfish regularly, as the bells of these relatively small creatures aren’t particularly nutrient-dense. However, the tentacles may have enough to sustain the octopuses, which have slow metabolisms.
The researchers analyzed the contents found in the stomachs of five previously caught H. atlanticus octopuses. Three of them contained jellyfish, and they were clutching gelatinous masses in their arms, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.
The scientists hypothesize that by letting the jelly’s tentacles hang loose, the octopus was using it as either a means of defense or a way to catch more prey.
And this wouldn’t be the first species of octopus to make use of gelatinous creatures. Blanket octopuses use the tentacles of Portuguese man-o-wars as weapons of defense, and some octopuses live in gelatinous creatures called salps.