Now you see me, now you don’t
What’s the first animal that comes to your mind when you think of camouflaging ability?
Well… not quite right!
While chameleons are best known for that, little is actually known to the big blue octopus, Octopus cyanea, for its even more complex colour and skin texture changing ability. This amazing sea creature is able to change its appearance to mimic any object in the reef – corals, rocks or even fishes.
(Haole in Hawaii, 2010)
Check out the video below!
Have you ever wondered how these creatures are able to perform such tasks without any difficulties?
By contracting its muscles, the octopus is able to control the size of the pigment cells, also known as chromatophores, responsible for the complex visual display. And since the octopus does not have any bones, they are very flexible and can virtually change into any shape.
This ability allows the octopus to be disguised from its predators and it also enables it to sneak up on its prey. In fact, it has been suggested that these octopuses use a wide range of changes in visual appearance rather than to change its colour to match the background perfectly, in order to break the predator’s search image and to make an escaping octopus difficult to follow. (Mather & Mather, 2004)
It has been reported that one particular octopus was seen changing patterns 1,000 times over a 7-hour period!
Did I mention that these amazing animals are colour blind? This brilliance reminds me of the great musician Beethoven who was deaf yet created such beautiful music.
Here’s another clip that will further blow you away.
A display of exceptional camouflaging ability by the Octopus vulgaris.
“Camouflage & Adaptive Colouration,” by R. Hanlon. Marine Biological Laboratory, n.d. URL: http://hermes.mbl.edu/mrc/hanlon/coloration.html (accessed on 8 April 2013).
“Octopus Escape,” by National Geographic. National Geographic YouTube Channel, 24 March 2008. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oExwxkuT_c (accessed on 28 March 2013).
“Octopus vulgaris Camouflage Change,” by R. Hanlon. YouTube Channel, 23 April 2012. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSq8nghQZqA (accessed 8 April 2013).
“Underwater Hawai’i – A Photo Diary” by Haole in Hawaii. Daily Kos, 6 September 2010. URL: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/09/06/899651/-Underwater-Hawai-i-A-Photo-Diary# (accessed on 10 April 2013).
Josef, N., Amodio, P., Fiorito, G., & Shashar, N. (2012). Camouflaging in a Complex Environment—Octopuses Use Specific Features of Their Surroundings for Background Matching. PloS one, 7(5), e37579.
Mather, J.A., Mather, D.L., 2004. Apparent movement in a visual display: the ‘passing cloud’ of Octopus cyanea (Mollusca: Cephalopoda). Journal of Zoology, 263 (1), pp. 89-94.