Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Indonesian mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus), named for its diverse mimicry displays

The Indonesian mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus, Octopodidae family) is named for its ability to mimic various marine species including sea snakes, lionfish and flatfish [1,2]. The mimic octopus is relatively small in comparison to other octopus species. It normally shows dark and white stripes around its arms, but the pattern and depth of color changes depending on whether it attempts to blend in with its surroundings or mimic the appearance of other creatures.

In a recent ‘Natural History’ article in the journal Scientific American, Peter Forbes offers examples of animal mimicry, studied in butterfly and moth populations—and the mimic octopus [3]. He describes, how Thaumoctopus mimicus, in addition to its coloration tricks, mimics movement behavior of other species within its habitat. For example, it masquerades as a flounder by holding its arms together to copy the flounder's shape and to replicate the flounder's mode of swimming by undulating.  Among humans, we call this impersonation. Considering octopus-flounder mimicry, my term of choice is flounderation. For an octopus, this means not fun or show time (or maybe it does, too), but irritation and deception of predators and probably also disguise of its own predating activity.

Keywords: marine biology, Cephalopoda, Octopoda, camouflage, tropical seas of South East Asia

References and more to explore
[1] The Indonesian Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) Sulawesi [].
[2] Roger T. Hanlon, Lou-Anne Conroy and John W. Forsythe: Mimicry and foraging behavior of two tropical sand-flat octopus species off North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. January 2008, 93 (1), 23-38. DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8312.2007.00948.x.
[3] Peter Forbes: Masters of Disguise. Sci. Am. May 2011, 304 (5), pp.80-83 [].

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