If you are unfamiliar with the mimic octopus, prepare to be utterly amazed. This is easily one of the most unique creatures on our planet, with abilities that are nothing short of magical, perhaps even alien-like. Here are 15 interesting facts about the mimic octopus.
15. It is a Master of Disguise
First and foremost, the most fascinating feature of the mimic octopus is its fantastic ability to accurately mimic and disguise itself as other marine creatures. And I don’t mean that it “sort of looks” like them either, it does an impeccable job of accurately portraying the creature it chooses to mimic. It can change its shape, color, size, and even behavior to mimic over 15 different aquatic creatures, such as sea snakes, jellyfish, starfish, coral reef, frogfish, stingrays, and more!
14. It Mimics Other Creatures to Avoid Predators
While its mimicking abilities may be fascinating to us, it is of practical use. Like many other animals, this camouflage ability is used to avoid, or perhaps outwit, predators. It may try and blend into its environment, appearing as something such as a coral reef, or appear to be a different animal entirely – perhaps one more intimidating, poisonous, or simply one that isn’t on the menu for suspecting predators around the area.
13. It Has Amazing Memory
The Mimic octopus has amazingly accurate memory, both long and short term. Researchers suggest that it chooses an animal to mimic based on the types of predators it has observed in the past. What makes this so interesting is that it is not necessarily instinct, but a learned ability. The mimic octopus will observe the behavior of predators consuming their prey across the ocean and memorizing both the area and the predator, allowing it to know which mimic is best for each environment.
12. It Also Mimics to Capture Prey
While the main benefit of its camouflage may be avoiding predators, their camouflage also helps them capture unsuspecting prey. Being able to appear as something harmless, such as a coral reef or perhaps non-hostile creature, the octopus can use its camouflage ability to sneak up on prey. It’s diet consist of worms, crabs, and small species of fish.
11. It’s a Solitary Creature
Most octopus are solitary creatures and the mimic octopus is no exception. It spends its entire life alone, except when mating. And if it does happen to see another mimic octopus, there may be trouble…
10. It’s a Cannibal
That’s right, the Mimic Octopus is also a cannibal, it will eat other octopus. And while cannibalism in nature is not all that uncommon, usually it is part of survival. With the mimic octopus, it is a territorial battle, as they see their own as competition. They will even cannibalize while having abundant food sources around, simply to maintain their territory.
9. It was Only Recently Discovered
The first mimic octopus was discovered in 1998, only 2 decades ago. It was discovered by a group of scientists off the coast of Indonesia, at the bottom of a muddy river. At first, scientists believe it only inhabited the Indo-Pacific, but later one was spotted near the great barrier reef in 2012.
8. We Don’t Know All the Places it Lives
While we do know that it inhabits the Indo-Pacific and that it has been seen as far as the great barrier reef, scientists suggest that it’s possible that the mimic octopus inhabits other area. We simply don’t know where all it may be located and sightings are rare. With it being a master of camouflage, one might say it is easy to miss.
7. We Don’t Know if It’s Poisonous
Researchers are still uncertain if the mimic octopus is poisonous to predators. An interesting observation is that is typically does mimic predators that are poisonous, such as lionfish and sea snakes, but there is still uncertainty whether it is itself. There is a hypothesis that if it was poisonous, there would not be such a need for its exceptional mimicry abilities.
6. They are Fairly Small
The mimic octopus is smaller than most other octopus. Typically, one that is fully grown one reaches about 2 feet or 60cm, including its arms. Each arm is approximately the thickness of a pencil at their widest.
5. It has a Short Lifespan
Most octopus in general have a short lifespan, the smaller ones typically live a few months, and a few larger species can live over few years. But seeing as the mimic octopus is fairly small, it is estimated that is lives usually around 9 months. But there is also another factor at play….
4. Breeding Means Tragic Death
For the mimic octopus, mating is a tragic love story. Males die shortly after mating with a female, and females die shortly after giving birth. The male will insert its sperm using an extended arm into the female. Soon after the male will die and the female will fertilize and carry the eggs. After the larvae hatch, she will then die as well. The males also have to worry about being cannibalized by the females when mating, as the females are typically larger.
3. It Likes a Muddy Habitat
The mimic octopus will typically choose an environment close to an estuary or river mouth because of their muddy, cloudy, and silting debris. The mimic octopus will use this debris as cover as well, making it even harder to see. Usually areas such as these are nutrient rich and well populated with small fish and other unsuspecting prey.
2. It is Highly Intelligent
It is said that octopus in general are some of the most intelligent animals in the world and are also highly sentient creatures, meaning they are able to perceive feelings to some degree. Octopus have been known to develop unique strategies for finding food, easily learn habits from other octopus, use shields to protect themselves, and even solve complicated problems. Add to this the mimicry of the mimic octopus, and it may take the title as most intelligent of all.
1. We Don’t Know the Limits
This is potentially the most amazing feature about the mimic octopus, we simply do not know what all it can imitate. As of now, it has been observed to mimic over 15 different creatures, sea snakes, jellyfish, starfish, frogfish, stingrays, flounder, – to name a few. But it is strongly suggested by scientist that it may be able to mimic much more. And seeing as that what it chooses to mimic is suggested to be a learned ability based of memory, you can only guess at the potential. The mimic octopus is truly something out of this world, it truly is alien-like. Only time will tell what this creature is capable of.