The Mimic Octopus and the Wonderpus

There are two recently discovered species of rare but stunning octopus that are found only in the waters around Bali and Sulawesi, of the Indo-Malay peninsula. These are the Mimic Octopus or Thaumoctopus mimicus and the Wonderpus  or Wunderpus photogenicus.


The Mimic Octopus gets its name by its strong ability to mimic or impersonate other sea creatures which serves as its primary method of defence. My contorting it’s arms and changing color, this unique master of disguise can mimic the physical likeness and movements of more than fifteen different species, including sea snakes, lionfish, flatfish, brittle stars, giant crabs, sea shells, stingrays, flounders, jellyfish, sea anemones, and mantis shrimp. By imitating a crab’s mate, the Octopus can lure other crabs and prey on them. It can also use its tentacles to imitate a poisonous fish eating anemone, or quickly imitate a poisonous lionfish which keeps other fish away.

The Mimic Octopus can be identified by their size and coloring. They grow up to 60 cm (2 feet) in length and its normal colouring consists of brown and white stripes or spots. The border between pale and dark brown areas is mottled, making it difficult to identify where the dark areas begin and pale areas end. This Octopus is usually found in shallow bays and reefs of Indonesia and Malaysia and very rarely in deeper waters where it is easy prey for sharks and other larger predators. Mimic Octopuses have been known to bury themselves in the sand of the sea bed which is unlike any other octopus.

The Wondurpus is strikingly similar to the Mimic Octopus and lives in the same waters, however has longer arms, and a more distinct and striking pattern. The Wunderpus has well-defined white spots on its mantle or head, and bars on the arms and body color is a reddish brown. The wonderpus does not mimic other creatures like the Mimic Octopus does, but flashes its bright colors when provoked warning other creates that it may be poisonous. It also and remains mostly hidden during the day time and hunts only at night unlike the Mimic which is diurnal. Not very much is known about the Wonderpus as the creature has been very unsuccessful in captivity  and usually dies within a few days of being caught. This species also is found in the shallower waters of coral reefs in the South Pacific and is often spotted by Scuba Divers or people snorkelling or wading through shallow reefs.

Both the Wonderpus and the Mimic Octopus are simply a delight to underwater photographers, both for the unique and dazzling colors and the various poses these creatures make.

photo courtesy Stephen ChildsDaniel Kwok“Buzz”

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