Exotic paper nautilus captured off San Pedro

paper-nautilus-cabrillo.jpgThe Pacific Ocean gave up another of its mysteries off our coast this week. A female Argonaut, a form of octopus commonly called a paper nautilus and usually seen only in warmer regions, was brought aboard by fishermen a few miles out from Angel's Gate lighthouse in San Pedro, the Daily Breeze says. They apparently knew it was special and took the specimen alive to Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.

The strange octopus is a rare sight here because it only lives in tropical and subtropical waters, where it often floats near the surface of the open ocean, grasping small crustaceans and molluscs with its eight thin, silvery tentacles and gnawing on them with its tiny beak.

Aquarium workers are treating the new guest like visiting royalty. They even grew excited when it performed mundane tasks.

"She's pooping!" shouted lab assistant Emily Mumper, as a thin white string of excrement floated to the bottom of the tank. "That's a good sign!"

The baseball-sized animal is making herself at home in a 4-foot-tall tank in the aquatic nursery, where she bobs up and down slowly and without much grace, furling and unfurling her sucker-covered arms over her ridged shell. No one has ever been able to keep an Argonaut alive in captivity for more than two weeks, so little is known about this species, aquarium officials said.

Photo: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium / Gary Florin

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