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.
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