All the world’s a stage…

You notice a strange creature entering your territory. As you charge fearlessly towards it, it undergoes an astonishing transformation… into a poisonous banded sea snake! Startled, you turn and quickly flee for dear life. You are a damselfish, swimming in the waters of the Indo-Malayan seas, and you have just been fooled by the Mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus).

When it comes to disguise, the mimic octopus is no doubt the mime of the animal kingdom. Instead of hiding or escaping, the mimic octopus, chooses to make itself more conspicuous to predators by mimicking other fierce-looking sea-creatures. Its mimicry of different poisonous creatures confuses or scares away predators.

By creatively rearranging its limbs, adopting characteristic movements and altering its color, the mimic octopus can successfully model after many other creatures that share its habitat. This is the mimic in its typical pattern.

 Image 1: Mimic octopus’ typical pattern

The mimic octopus tucks its arms by its side while flattening its body, and swims with increasing speed to resemble the appearance and movements of the sole.

Image 2: Mimic octopus and a sole

Here’s an ingenious trick. By doing the exact same movements, but leaving one of its tentacles trailing behind it, it imitates a stingray.

Image 3: Mimic octopus mimicking a stingray

By spreading its legs and allowing its arms to trail behind it, it models the lionfish’s poisonous spines with its arms to fend off predators thinking of taking a bite at it.

Image 4: Mimic octopus and a lionfish

To transform into a sea snake, the octopus hides its head and six of its tentacles into a burrow or the ground. It then flails its remaining two arms in a manner with an uncanny resemblance to the movements of the sea snake.


Image 5: Mimic octopus and a banded sea-snake

It swims to the surface, then slowly sinks, with its arms spread evenly around its body, above its head to imitate a large jellyfish.

Image 6 : Mimic octopus mimicking a jellyfish

Image 7: Mimic octopus mimicking a starfish

Image 8: Mimic octopus mimicking a seashell

Like a professional performer, the mimic octopus varies its performance according to its audience. Aside from imitating poisonous creatures to escape danger, it uses its excellent mimicry skills to hunt for prey. It can disguise as a potential mate to a crab, only make a meal out of its deceived courter!

How fascinating this species is, to not only have the ability imitate other species but also to cater its mimicry to different times of crisis. Its impersonation of other creatures may be far from perfect in our eyes, but they are certainly enough to fool the other fellow inhabitants of the waters. The astounding number of creatures it mimics only leaves us to wonder how much more is left unfound about this species’ skills. As the outsmarting game in the waters continues, even more surprising and wondrous animals may await discovery.


Journal sources

HANLON, R. T.-A. (2008). Mimicry and foraging behaviour of two tropical sand-flat octopus species off North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society , 93 (1), 23-38.

Non-journal sources

Where knowledge rules.” By Mahan, T. L. (2008, Sept 9). Retrieved April 2, 2013, from Helium:

Nature Blows My Mind! The Amazing Shapeshifting Mimic Octopus! “ By Richard, M. G. (2012, Sept 13). Retrieved April 2, 2013, from Tree Hugger:

The mimic octopus (my first ever post)” By Yong, E. (2009, Dec 13). Retrieved April 2, 2013, from Scienceblog:

Image sources

“Mimic octopus” By Wikipedia, t. f. (2013, March 18). Retrieved April 8, 2013, from Wikipedia:

The mimic octopus (my first ever post). “ By Yong, E. (2009, Dec 13). Retrieved April 8, 2013, from ScienceBlogs:

Amazing sea creatures: Mimic octopus.” By DavyJones. (2011, Sept 13). Retrieved Apr 8, 2013, from HubPages:

OMG Mimic Octopus!” By Anonymous. (2011, Jul 23). Retrieved Apr 8, 2013, from

The Clever Mimic Octopus.” By Creedence. (2011, Aug 16). Retrieved Apr 8, 2013, from AquaViews:

Shape Shifting Sea Creatures: Part 2.” By Anonymous. (n.d.). Retrieved Apr 8, 2013, from Paranormal Ocean:

Video source

“The Indonesian mimic octopus” By Marcelnad. (2008, Feb 1). Retrieved Apr 8, 2013, from Youtube: