Scientists reveal the true identity of a Chinese octopus

Locals and fishermen had long been familiar with the species, but they kept mistaking it for a different species.

octopus

As they were collecting cephalopod samples in Dongshan island in China’s Fujian Province, a team of researchers came across an interesting finding: a new-to-science species of octopus.

A live individual of Callistoctopus xiaohongxu.

Actually, locals and fishermen have long been familiar with the species -but they kept mistaking it for a juvenile form of the common long-arm octopus (‘Octopus minor), whose trade is widespread throughout the country.

Only when a team of scientists from the Ocean University of China collected a batch of specimens misidentified by locals from Dongshan Seafood Market Pier as ‘O’. minor to study them, did it become apparent that this was in fact a separate, new species. That’s how it got its own name, Callistoctopus xiaohongxu, and a scientific description published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

A live individual of Callistoctopus xiaohongxu.

The scientific name xiaohongxu is a phonetic translation of the local Chinese name of this species in Zhangzhou, where it was collected. It is a reference to its smooth skin and reddish-brown colour, which are among its most distinctive features. At less than 40 g in its adult stage, C. xiaohongxu is considered a small to moderate-sized octopus.

A net-like web structure on Callistoctopus xiaohongxu.

The researchers also note that this is the first new species of the genus Callistoctopus to be found in the China Seas.

More than 130 different cephalopod species are recorded in Chinese waters. Тhe southeast waters of China, due to the influence of strong warm currents, provide ideal environmental conditions to generate abundant marine biodiversity, and the finding of C. xiaohongxu further confirms the high diversity of species in the southeast China sea, the researchers said.

Research article:

Zheng X, Xu C, Li J (2022) Morphological description and mitochondrial DNA-based phylogenetic placement of a new species of Callistoctopus Taki, 1964 (Cephalopoda, Octopodidae) from the southeast waters of China. ZooKeys 1121: 1-15. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1121.86264

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