Wonderpus Octopus

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The Wonderpus octopus, Wunderpus photogenicus, a newly described species of octopus, is an amazingly beautiful species of octopus, and a favorite underwater critter for muck-diving underwater photographs to photograph. The Wonderpus octopus was not officially described until 2006.

Wonderpus Octopus Photo by Nancy Steere
Wonderpus Octopus Photo by Nancy Steere

Their official range consists of the area bordered by Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Borneo, and the Phillipines. Their diet consists of small crustaceans and small fish.

Since the wonderpus octopus has only recently been discovered by scientists, and since it doesn’t live for long in captivity, there’s still much that is unknown about its life. Its home is a burrow on the ocean floor. This may be a burrow dug by another animal or a burrow dug by the octopus. The animal emerges from its home to feed at dusk and at dawn. It moves by swimming or by using its arms to perform a walking motion over the ocean bottom.

The wonderpus octopus is a predator and feeds on fish, crabs and perhaps other animals as well. Two different methods of catching prey have been observed. The octopus may move over the top of a potential prey animal, expanding the webs attached to its eight arms to form an “umbrella” over the unfortunate animal and then pulling it towards its mouth with an arm and eating it. The octopus may also send one of its arms down into a hole like a probe, grabbing prey with the suckers on the underside of the arm. The wonderpus octopus has the ability to regenerate parts of arms that are lost and can deliberately release these parts to distract a predator.

Two theories have been proposed to explain why the wonderpus octopus developed its dramatic and conspicuous appearance. One theory suggests that the octopus is mimicking dangerous banded animals like sea snakes and lionfish as a form of protection against predators. Another theory says that it may be warning predators that it’s toxic.

Wonderpus Octopus Photo by Michel Labrecque
Wonderpus Octopus Photo by Michel Labrecque

Wonderpus octopus habitat

The habitat of the Wonderpus octopus consists of open areas of sand, often black sand, where there are few places of refuge. They live in burrows in the sand.

The wonderpus octopus is usually orange-brown or red-brown in color, with sharply defined white spots on its body and white bars on its arms. The colors and pattern become more dramatic when the animal is alarmed. Its “head” is branched. There’s a small eye on each branch and a tall, vertical protuberance called a papilla above each eye.

The wonderpus octopus is often confused with the mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus), which lives in the same general area and has a somewhat similar pattern of white spots and bands on a darker background. The background color of a mimic octopus is often dark brown or black, while the wonderpus octopus generally has a light brown background tinged with orange or red. The mimic octopus has the amazing and almost instantaneous ability to change its color, skin texture, arrangement of the arms around the body and style of movement in order to mimic other creatures.

WUNDERPUS vs MIMIC Tips for telling the difference between Wunderpus photogenicus Hochberg, Norman and Finn 2006 (Wunderpus) and Thaumoctopus mimicus Norman and Hochberg, 2005 (the Mimic Octopus).

Wonderpus Octopus Identification & Size

The Wonderpus octopus is often confused with the Mimic Octopus. The wonderpus octopus has fairly uniform white markings that lie on a solid rusty-brown body. Notice how the rusty-brown body in my photography is fairly uniform and solid. The Wonderpus does not mimic other species like the Mimic does. Total length of the Wonderpus octopus is usually 15-25cm.

Underwater Photography Tips for the Wonderpus Octopus

The Wonderpus octopus is most active early morning, or late afternoon (dawn & dusk). They are less commonly seen in the middle of the day or night.

Do not rapidly approach the octopus, or get too close – they can quickly bury themselves in the sand. Observe them at first from a distance and they will reward you with remarkable behavior.

When the Wonderpus is alarmed, it gives a warning display similar to what you see in my photo above.  Backup and give the octopus space so you can watch it continue to forage or find a mate.

The Wonderpus is often seen in 20-40ft of water.

 

Source UWPhoto Guide, OWlocation.com

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January 8, 2017 |

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