Mimic Octopus

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The mimic octopus was not discovered officially until 1998, off the coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia. This is the only octopus known to mimic the appearance and mannerisms other species. Mimic octopus have been known to imitate more than fifteen different species, including sea snakes, lionfish, flatfish, brittle stars, giant crabs, sea shells, stingrays, flounders, jellyfish, sea anemones, and mantis shrimp.

Brandon Cole Marine Photography
Brandon Cole Marine Photography

“Mimic Octopus”, an Indo-West Pacific long-armed species which impersonates numerous poisonous or dangerous animals. This distinctive octopus is here described. A combination of unique morphological characters justify this octopus being placed in a new genus. These characters include: absence of a calamus on the copulatory organ, absence of enlarged suckers in either sex; long narrow arms capable of arm autotomy at a set level near the base; and distinctive base components of colour patterns including a white teardrop ring on the mid-dorsal mantle and a distinct white “U” patch on the posterio-dorsal mantle. Mimic octopuses reach about 60  cm in length and are typically brown and white striped.

Mimic octopuses have been observed shifting between impersonations as it crosses the ocean floor to return to its burrow.

Scientists speculate that additional mimic species will be found in muddy river and estuary bottoms in the tropics as these areas are typically unexplored.

Mimic Octopus By AMNewman
Mimic Octopus By AMNewman

All octopus species are highly intelligent and change the color and texture of their skin for camouflage to avoid predators. Until the mimic octopus was discovered, however, the remarkable ability to impersonate another animal had never been observed.

Although mimicry is a common survival strategy in nature, certain flies assume the black and yellow stripes of bees as a warning to potential predators, the mimic octopus is the first known species to take on the characteristics of multiple species.

The creatures they mimic include:

» Sole fish: This flat, poisonous fish is imitated by the mimic octopus by building up speed through jet propulsion as it draws all of its arms together into a leaf-shaped wedge as it undulates in the manner of a swimming flat fish.

» Lion fish: To mimic the lion fish, the octopus hovers above the ocean floor with its arms spread wide, trailing from its body to take on the appearance of the lion fish’s poisonous fins.

» Sea snakes: The mimic octopus changes color taking on the yellow and black bands of the toxic sea snake as it waves 2 arms in opposite directions in the motion of two sea snakes.

Scientists believe this creature may also impersonate sand anemones, stingrays, mantis shrimp and even jellyfish.

This animal is so intelligent that it is able to discern which dangerous sea creature to impersonate that will present the greatest threat to its current possible predator. For example, scientists observed that when the octopus was attacked by territorial damselfishes, it mimicked the banded sea snake, a known predator of damselfishes.

Mimic Octo

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August 30, 2017 |

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