Mimic octopus

Mimic octopus

The sneaky mimic octopus is a master of disguise. It mimics foul-tasting or poisonous sea creatures to scare off predators.

Mimic octopus

Mimic octopus

Faking it

The mimic octopus has an amazing talent that comes in very handy in the dangerous depths of the sea. It can twist and fold its body – rather like a conjurer making a balloon animal – to look like all sorts of other sea creatures.

There are plenty of creatures who pretend to be other animals, but the mimic octopus is the first one that we know about that can do more than one impression. It was only discovered about 15 years ago – before that, divers who spotted it mistook it for the creatures it was pretending to be.

Scary impressions
  • A venomous lion fish. The octopus spreads out its arms to mimic the fish’s poisonous fins.
  • A sea snake, whose bite is toxic. The mimic buries its whole body in the sand, apart from two tentacles. Predators think these are a couple of dangerous snakes wiggling about.
  • Another poisonous fish called the flatfish. The octopus speeds through the water, drawing its arms together to form a leaf-shaped wedge. It swims in a rippling motion, just like a flatfish does.
Who are you really?
  • The mimic octopus is almost 50cm long.
  • It has brown and white stripes or spots all over its body.
  • It lives in the tropical seas of South East Asia.