a1 Department of Zoology, The Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605 USA
Intraspecific variation in characters such as arm sucker and gill lamellae counts in octopodids is yet to be thoroughly investigated, potentially hampering our ability to recognize species. In this study, data from 13 specimens of Muusoctopus hydrothermalis collected at four hydrothermal vents on the East Pacific Rise between 8°38′N and 12°48′N are considered. Although the northern and southern octopuses differ minimally in size, mean sucker count by arm in the northern group is 11.7 to 22.8% higher than it is in the southern group; in addition these octopuses typically have an additional gill lamella and bulkier funnel organs. The arms of each individual carry a different number of suckers. The difference is significant on nonadjacent arms, a pattern that merits examination in a broader taxonomic context. Why these differences exist among conspecifics remains unknown, the incidence of parasitic copepods is not different between the groups and the between-group variation in arm suckers seen here compares well with a previous report of variation among 18 specimens from the type locality. Increases in meristic characters (counts) in fish are attributed to lower temperatures during embryonic development following Jordan's rule. Northern and southern vents offer the octopuses a wide temperature range, but vent fluid chemistry differs. Northern vent fluids may be more toxic; if so, developing octopus embryos may survive only minimal vent fluid exposure and therefore develop at low temperatures. At the less toxic southern vents, eggs may survive greater exposure to vent fluids and thus develop at higher temperatures.
(Received October 19 2010)
(Accepted June 06 2011)
(Online publication July 22 2011)