In March of this year, the world met an adorable octopod without pigment that was called “Casper.” According to new research, Casper’s cycle of life could be in danger because of commercial exploitation of its habitat.
The first specimen of this rare octopod was discovered in the Hawaiian Archipelago, near to Hawaii’s Necker Island. According to a study published Monday in Current Biology, the habitat where this ghostly species lives could be in danger as its eggs grow in nodules that are essential for exploiting companies.
The investigation showed how “Casper” places its eggs in hidden depths, reaching the 4,000 meters below the level of the sea and even more. Unfortunately, the octopod deposits its eggs in structures that are rich in manganese, an element with high value for technologic manufacturing companies across the world.
Could the exploitation kill the ‘Casper’ octopods?
According to lead study author from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Autun Purser, the fact that this species places its eggs in that particular surface it’s not by random chance. There is a group of special sponges that have as habitat the nodules in which the manganese is present. Then, when the sponges die, the octopods choose this place as the perfect one for their eggs to hatch.
The investigation team analyzed the behavior of over 30 octopod specimens of two different species located in the Hawaiian Archipelago and the Peru Basin. Of the whole group of octopods, two of them were observed while brooding eggs that were attached to the sponges stuck to the manganese nodules. Because of the low temperature inherent of the deep sea (1.5 degrees Celsius), this brooding could take over a whole year.
The study showed that both habitats analyzed feature high presence of manganese nodules in which the octopods decide to live near to, not only when brooding their eggs but also when feeding themselves. Purser explains the problem this means to the life of these species, regarding surviving a possible mining.
“Many of the metals contained (in manganese nodules) are ‘high-tech’ metals, useful in producing mobile phones and other modern computing equipment, and most of the land sources of these metals have already been found and are becoming more expensive to buy,” Purser said in a statement after the release of the study this Monday.
These manganese nodules are not fast to reproduce, as the growing of only one of them could take years. This means that if humans perturb the fauna, it will damage octopods reproductive cycle immediately. However, the scientists explained that right now there are enough manganese and other high-value metals on land that avoids companies from meddling into deep sea fauna, at least right now. They said that as this ecosystem is very fragile, any human contact regarding exploitation could represent irreparable damage to the life of the species.