Amazing sea creatures: Mimic octopus
Different mimic forms of the Mimic octopus
The mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) is one of the sea creatures with an amazing defense system. As the name implies it confuses its enemies by mimicking other (poisonous or dangerous) sea creatures. It was discovered only some decades ago in 1998 off the coast of Indonesia. The mimic octopus is about 55 cm long and is brown with white in its normal form, although it is hard to determine what it really looks like because of its constant shape-shifting. The mimic octopus lives in a burrow on the bottom of the ocean but has also been found in muddy rivers in some tropical regions.
It feeds on small sea creatures like small crabs and other crustaceans and small fish which it can find on the ocean floor. It captures its prey with its tentacles which have suctorial disks and brings them to its mouth which is located on the anterior side under the body. It finds its prey on the ocean floor on or in the sand. The mimic octopus also reaches in holes in for example rocks to find small creatures hiding in there. The predators of the mimic octopus include sharks, dolphins, eels, sea turtles and other big fish.
List of the different mimic forms of the mimic octopus and the reason why it mimics these creatures.
Sea snake: The mimic octopus stretches to a long snake like form and takes on black and yellow stripes (warning colors), sea snakes are poisonous and so predators will leave these creatures alone.
Brittle stars: Brittle stars are sea stars with long flexible arms with which they drag themselves over the ocean floor, these creatures are not eaten by many predators and are thus a save mimic form.
Jellyfish: The mimic octopus turns a light white like color and moves its body like a jellyfish to copy their movement. Jellyfish can paralyze and have very low nutritional value so predators will not attack.
Sole fish: These fish are flat and poisonous, they can be mimicked by flattening of the body and turning grayish, the swimming pattern is mimicked by using its tentacles for jet propulsion so it looks like the swimming pattern of a flat shaped fish. The mimic octopus is also believed to mimic other flatfish.
Stingray: The stingray looks something like the sole fish, the octopus only needs to mimic the tail by using one tentacle. The stingray uses its tail to sting its enemies and predators will hesitate to attack these creatures.
Sea anemones: Sea anemones are poisonous plant like creatures which live on rocks. Most predators get stung by anemones and will not go near the octopus when mimicking these creatures. It will mimic these by turning into a bright color and use its tentacles as the “leaf” like structures.
Lionfish: The lionfish has poisonous fins which spread all around its body. The octopus mimics this fish by spreading its tentacles around itself in the form of fins and mimicking the swimming behavior of the lionfish by swimming slowly just above the sea floor.
Japanese spider crab: These large crabs have long legs compared to their bodies. This is easily mimicked by the mimic octopus as the tentacles are quite long as well. The octopus will also walk on the ocean floor as if it were a crab. Crabs are hard to eat because of their shell and have claws so they are no easy prey for predators.
Sea shells: Sea shells are hard to eat for normal predators of the mimic octopus (it requires specialists to eat these), and they will leave sea shells alone.
The mimic octopus chooses the mimic forms it takes on carefully. When in danger the mimic octopus will most often choose a form which is a natural predator of the attacking creature.And the mimic form chosen by the octopus almost always is a common predator or creature for the habitat its in. This is important because if the attacking creature does not know the form the octopus mimics it will attack. How the octopus adapted the way it did by mimicking other creatures and knowing which creature to mimic is still not clear. Below links can be found to studies about octopus mimicry.
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