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Monday, November 29, 2004

Indo-Malayan mimic octopus

Now here's a cephalopod with a real talent. The first picture below is this clever Indonesian mimic octopus propped up above his burrow, keeping an eye out for food and danger; in the next picture, he's on the prowl, just relaxing in his natural colors.

Octopus mimicOctopus mimic

Startle him, though, and poof, he transforms into a flatfish and swims away!

Octopus mimic

If he's worried more, he'll suddenly adopt the coloration and shape of a spiny, poisonous lionfish.

Octopus mimic

Aaaah! It's a banded sea-snake! Swim away!
But no, actually it's the octopus again.

Octopus mimic

And if you want to see these impressive tricks in action, here's a couple of movies. In the first, the octopus flashes stripes, and then turns brown, curls around, and swims off just like a flatfish.

Octopus mimic
1.4MB Quicktime movie

In this one, he's tucked into his burrow with just two arms hanging out, doing a sea snake impression. Near the end, watch the fish swim into view, say "Yikes!"* and dart away again.

Octopus mimic
3.2MB Quicktime movie

*OK, he really doesn't say anything, but you know he was thinking it.

Norman MD, Finn J, Tregenza T (2001) Dynamic mimicry in an Indo-Malayan octopus. Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 268(1478):1755-1758.

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#9948: — 11/29  at  08:16 PM
That is just so cool! Thanks for the look PZ.

#9950: — 11/29  at  09:03 PM
Yep. Neat stuff.

#9952: Rats — 11/29  at  09:44 PM
I wish I could do that! (Somehow, it just never seems as impressive when I stretch out my arms, jump up and down, and yell "Look, world, I'm a bird!")

#9953: — 11/29  at  10:20 PM
There was a Discovery Channel special I saw on this guy a few years back. (And these pictures are from the show, or at least from the researchers who filmed it.) When I first got my Tivo, "mimic octopus" was one of the first "Wishlist" items I put in it.

You really can't get the full feel of what an amazing impressionist this animal is unless you can see it in full, moving action in its environment.

Fascinating, amazing, impressive; there really are few qualifiers strong enough for what an unbelievable show this little fellow can put on.

The Discovery Channel show repeats fairly regularly. I encourage you to try to catch it if you are interested.

#9956: — 11/30  at  12:27 AM
Yeah, ledge - it's thought they're closely related to, if not the same as the "wunderpus" found over a broader region.

#9961: Mrs Tilton — 11/30  at  06:56 AM
Certainly the coolest part of its act is that first picture. Who'd've thought a sea creature's ability to mimic an owl would be adaptive?

#9973: — 11/30  at  08:58 AM
Way cool.

#9981: Evan Murdock — 11/30  at  10:58 AM
It's an extraordinary beasty. I'm most amazed at how it captures the gesture of what it's mimicking more so than the look; the lionfish doesn't seem so realistic in a still photo, but in motion it's startling. Ain't nature keen?

#10013: Rana — 11/30  at  04:57 PM
Octupi are just so nifty. You've heard about the one in captivity that learned to sneak out of its tank at night to go raid the crab tank, haven't you?

#10014: — 11/30  at  05:06 PM
Rana; Yes, I've heard that story and others about octupi being very intelligent and having extremely fast learning curves. Doc (PZ), if their eyes are wired differently than everything else, are their brains as well?

#10309: — 12/06  at  02:54 PM
Wow, thats amazing

#10310: — 12/06  at  02:56 PM
I love that thing you wrote

#12945: — 01/10  at  04:23 PM
Read Jeremy Narby's "The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge" and you'll understand how this octopus learned how to do something that rational science can't explain. Guaranteed.

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