Diver starry-eyed over 'extremely rare' octopus discovery on NSW South Coast

Diver starry-eyed over 'extremely rare' octopus discovery

A diver has discovered a special starry-eyed surprise in the waters of the NSW South Coast.

Earlier this month, marine biology student and octopus fanatic, Lawrence Scheele, befriended a species he had never seen before - a southern star-eye octopus.

Well known for their intelligence, Mr Scheele often comes across different species of the boneless creatures in the waters of our backyard.

After years of diving around Australia, he was amazed to see one so rare in the waters of Narooma.

"They are extremely rare, there are very few in Australia," he said. "Scientists know very little about it as it's under research."

The southern star-eye octopus was known to reach 15cm in size and inhabits sub-tropical shallow waters.

"It's very similar to a species in Japan - the northern star-eyed octopus," he said.

"Some of the diagnostic features of this octopus, was the pattern on its arms - a net-like pattern.

"They can alter the texture on their skin, activating skin cells; when they do that, they create the star shape above their eye."

Mr Scheele spotted the octopus when snorkeling with his girlfriend Kaspa in the dark waters of the Wagonga Inlet at 1am.

"When I first saw it, I knew it wasn't the normal octopus," Mr Scheele said.

The most common are gloomy octopus, which are an orange rust colour.

The southern star-eye octopus had made its home inside a brick.

"It's den was a discarded brick with shells around it," Mr Scheele said.

He discovered the octopus was female and spent four consecutive nights watching her movements.

"Each night she was more comfortable with us being there," he said. "The last night she came out of her den and was walking around.

"She was comfortable enough to leave her den and go out for a hunt while we observed her - it was really special."

The 24-year-old's passion for marine life sparked as a child. He would visit from Sydney for the summer holidays with his family.

"Narooma is the place that made me fall in love with the ocean and marine life, especially octopus there at the boardwalk," he said.

"For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by octopus - their uniqueness and all the abilities they have, whether that's colour changing or squeezing into tight places."

His dream career is to study octopus and pursue professional underwater photography.

Mr Scheele wants to create films, similar to the Netflix documentary, My Octopus Teacher, which he said changes peoples perception of life underwater.

He encouraged everyone to get themselves a snorkel and mask and explore.

"Narooma has such biodiversity," he said.

"Check out your local beach and get familiar with the inhabitants at your doorstep - it's so amazing and very unique compared to the rest of the world.

"Always dive with a buddy, it's the number one safety rule."

This story Diver starry-eyed over 'extremely rare' octopus discovery first appeared on Milton Ulladulla Times.