The Elements of Evolution (49-11-3) Mimic Octopus

 Mimic Octopus

All octopi can change color and texture. Many blend in with the décor, appearing as a rock or the look of the sea floor. One stands out for a display of even greater sophistication.

The mimic octopus puts on quite a show in the southeast Asian tropic seas. It impersonates other animals, displaying its mimicry situationally.

If attacked by a damselfish, the octopus turns into a banded sea snake, which is a damselfish predator. It does this by displaying yellow and black bands, burying 6 of its 8 legs, and waving the other 2 in opposite directions.

The octopus has been seen to mimic venomous sole, lionfish, sea snakes, jellyfish, and sea anemones, both in look and behavior. It may also masquerade as a flounder: pulling its arms in to imitate the flat fish’s shape, then waving them to replicate a flounder swimming. The mimic octopus’ repertoire extends as far as its cunning, which is considerable.

Defensive imitation is not the mimic’s only trick. It may imitate the apparent mate of a crab, thus snuggling up to a snack.