The Mimic Octopus, Thaumoctopus mimicus, is a unique species of octopus capable of impersonating other ocean animals.
Most species of octopus are famous for being able to change their skin color and texture. They do this to blend in with their surrounding background. This is possible through pigment sacs, chromatophores. Indeed, the mimic octopus does contain these chromatophores and does have the ability to blend in with backgrounds as well.
Mimic Octopus Behavior
What also makes the Mimic Octopus different from its relatives is its ability to take the shape of not only objects, such as coral and rock, but also some animals!
In fact, the mimic octopus is the only known aquatic species to be able to impersonate an array of different sea animals via behavior.
Although many animals can imitate a different species to avoid or intimidate predators, this octopus is the only one who can also choose from many types of forms depending on what predator they are trying to elude.
Mimic Octopus Physical Characteristics
The animal is a smaller octopus, growing to an average length of about 23.5 in. (60 cm), and their tentacles grow to be about 25 in. (63.5 cm) long, with a diameter about the same as a pencil at their widest.
The octopus’s natural color is a light brown/beige. However, they are usually a more noticeable color of striped white and brown to scare off predators by appearing to be poisonous.
It is unknown whether the mimic octopus is, in fact, poisonous to its predators. Yet, it is assumed that they are not considering that if they themselves were poisonous, then there would be no need to camouflage themselves as all these other poisonous sea animals.
The Mimic Octopus’ Mimicry
The mimic octopus’ strategy is rather impressive. Mimicry is a common survival strategy in nature, certain flies assume the black and yellow stripes of a bee as a warning to potential predators, but the mimic octopus is the first to mimic more than one species.
Scientists do not know how many animals the mimic octopus can imitate. What is certain, however, is that most of the animals that it chooses to mimic are poisonous.
This information also adds to the likelihood that the shape-shifting that the octopus is doing is a deliberate survival strategy. Some of the more common animals the mimic octopus imitates include the lionfish, sea snake, jellyfish, and flatfish.