A Niwa marine ecologist has added his name to a very short list of people worldwide who have seen, let alone photographed, an elusive football octopus.
Crispin Middleton, an accomplished underwater photographer, was swimming in the Poor Knights Marine Reserve, off the Whangārei coast, in November last year when he spotted the octopus inside a salp.
Middleton had dived the Poor Knights more than 1000 times and hadn't seen the species before, and hasn't seen one since.
Salps are a barrel-shaped invertebrate that resembles a jellyfish. Middleton says not many things ate salps, and the octopus might have been hiding there to avoid predators.
His photograph won a special award category in Niwa's annual staff photographic competition, and propelled him into the finalist of the New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year contest.
The Niwa competition attracted a large range of entries, featuring some of New Zealand's most awe-inspiring locations in which staff do their environmental science.
The winning photograph in the People's Choice section was also taken at the Poor Knights. Marine ecology technician Richie Hughes captured the setting sun sending beams of light through the water into Long Cave, which was full of blue mao mao and two-spot demoiselle.
"Framing an image like this requires the use of natural ambient light and light added from your camera's flash guns. It's the balance between these two, along with perfect composition, that may create the perfect exposure," he said.
Nearly 25km off Northland's Tutukaka Coast, the Poor Knights Islands are an international icon.
Beneath the waves, caves, arches, tunnels and sheer cliffs provide a great variety of habitats to explore.
The islands are renowned for diving and snorkelling, and local tourist operators are often equipped to give non-divers an underwater experience.
Renowned ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau rated the area as one of the top ten dives in the world.
FOOTBALL OCTOPUS FACTS
Ocythoe tuberculata, also known as the tuberculate pelagic octopus or football octopus, is a pelagic octopus. It is the only known species in the family Ocythoidae.
Ocythoe tuberculata is found in warm and temperate seas, especially in the northern hemisphere, such as the North Pacific Ocean off California.
Ocythoe are one of the few cephalopods to have a swimbladder. In captivity, two specimens were observed controlling their buoyancy and shooting water "forwards, upwards, sideways, and backwards" from the upper channel of the mantle cavity.