The newly discovered species of octopus inhabits the shallow waters off southwestern Australia and belongs to the Common octopus group, according to a new article published in the journal Zootaxons.
“Shallow-water benthic species are among the most studied and best understood octopods, and are therefore of great interest to researchers and fishermen,” said Dr Michael Amor of the Western Australian Museum and Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and Dr Anthony Hart of the Western Australian Fisheries and Marine Research Laboratory.
“This attention may lead to a better understanding of species boundaries and distributions, including the potential identification of cryptic taxa.”
“Cryptic speciation is common among octopods and examples are widespread throughout the Octopoda order.”
“Octopuses have few hard body parts or diagnostic taxonomic traits. In addition, the morphological plasticity associated with local environmental conditions and the limited utility of traditional molecular markers have aggravated our probable underestimation of species richness among octopods.
“Within Octopoda, perhaps the most emblematic example of this phenomenon is observed among the members of the Common octopus group, ”they added.
“This group of species represents one of the biggest targets of octopus fishing and is of broad scientific interest (eg, cell biology, environmental sciences, fisheries research, neuroscience, physiology, robotics).”
The newly discovered species is conspecific with another member of the Common octopus group – the common Sydney octopus (Octopus tetricus) from the east coast of Australia and New Zealand, but is morphologically and genetically distinct.
Named the star octopus (Octopus Djinda), the sea creature is distributed along the southwest coast of Australia from Shark Bay to Cape Le Grand.
“This distribution closely mirrors the territory of the traditional custodians of this land, the Nyoongar people (‘a person from southwestern Western Australia’),” the researchers said.
“To recognize their connection to this land, a Nyoongar translation of ‘star’ (djinda) was chosen as the species name. This use of “star” (luminous) reflects the recent ancestry shared with, and the now understood distinction of, Octopus tetricus. “
The new species is a medium to large octopus, with a coat length of 10.9 to 17.7 cm (4.3 to 7 inches).
“Octopus Djinda supports a highly productive fishery and is currently one of two octopod fisheries in the world to have received sustainable certification from the Marine Stewardship Council, ”the scientists said.
“Its taxonomic description provides a formal recognition of the taxonomic status of the common octopus of southwest Australia, Octopus Djinda, and facilitate the appropriate reporting and management of fishing catches.
Michael D. Amor & Anthony M. Hart. 2021. Octopus Djinda (Cephalopoda: Octopodidae): a new member of the Common octopus group from southwest Australia. Zootaxons 5061 (1): 145-156; doi: 10.11646 / zootaxa.5061.1.7