A living individual of Callistoctopus xiaohongxu. Credit: Zheng et al.

While collecting cephalopod samples on Dongshan Island in China’s Fujian Province, a team of researchers came across an interesting find: a species of octopus new to science.

In fact, local residents and fishermen have long been familiar with the species, but continue to confuse it with a young form of the common long-armed octopus (“Octopus” minor), whose trade is widespread throughout the country.

It wasn’t until a team of scientists from the Ocean University of China collected a batch of specimens misidentified by locals from the pier at the Dongshan Seafood Market as ‘O’. insignificant to their study, did it become apparent that this was in fact a separate, new species. That’s how it got its proper name, Callistoctopus xiaohongxu, and a scientific description published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

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

Scientists reveal the true identity of a Chinese octopus

A living individual of Callistoctopus xiaohongxu. Credit: Zheng et al.

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

Scientists reveal the true identity of a Chinese octopus

Web-like network structure of Callistoctopus xiaohongxu. Credit: Zheng et al.

More than 130 different species of cephalopods have been recorded in Chinese waters. Southeast China’s waters, due to the influence of strong warm currents, provide ideal ecological conditions for generating abundant marine biodiversity, and the finding of C. xiaohongxu further confirms the high diversity of species in the Southeast China Sea, the researchers said.

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More info:
Xiaodong Zheng et al, Morphological description and mitochondrial DNA-based phylogenetic placement of a new species of Callistoctopus Taki, 1964 (Cephalopoda, Octopodidae) from southeastern waters of China, ZooKeys (2022). DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.1121.86264

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