There is a unique species of octopus called “mimic octopus” that has the ability to mimic other sea creatures like sea snakes, lionfish, flatfish, brittle stars, giant crabs, sea shells, stingrays, jellyfish, sea anemones, and mantis shrimp. It also intelligently mimic it based upon the threat.
The mimic octopus, Thaumoctopus mimicus, is a unique species of octopus capable of impersonating other sea animals. Most octopi are famous for being able to change their skin color and texture in order to blend in with their surrounding background, such as algae-encrusted rock and nearby coral. This is done through pigment sacs known as chromatophores. The mimic octopus does contain these chromatophors, and does have the ability to blend in with backgrounds as well. However, what makes the Mimic octopus different from its relatives is its ability to take the shape of not only objects, such as coral and rock, but also some animals. The mimic octopus is the only known aquatic species to be able to impersonate an array of different sea animals via behavior. Although many animals who can imitate a different species to avoid or intimidate predators, the mimic octopus is the only one who can choose from many types of forms depending on what predator they are trying to elude
The mimic octopus uses a jet of water through its funnel to glide over the sand while searching for prey, typically small fish, crabs, and worms, protected by its apparently Batesian mimicry of aposematic animals. It also uses aggressive mimicry to approach wary prey, for example mimicking a crab as an apparent mate, only to devour its deceived suitor. It also prefers river mouths and estuaries, as opposed to reefs which are usually preferred give more shelter to other types of octopus. This is because it is able to impersonate poisonous fish; therefore it is hiding out in the open.
The mimic octopus’s strategy is quite impressive. Mimicry is a common survival strategy in nature, certain flies assume the black and yellow stripes of a bee as a warning to potential predators, but the mimic octopus is the first to mimic more than one species. The mimic octopus is the first of its kind to possess the ability. It is unknown how many animals the mimic octopus can imitate. What is known is that most of the animals that it chooses to mimic are poisonous. This information adds to the likelihood that the shape shifting that the octopus is doing is a deliberate survival strategy. Some of the more common animals the mimic octopus imitates are the following:
Lion fish– The lion fish is a poisonous fish with the brown and white stripes and spines that trail behind it on all sides. When the octopus changes its color and shapes its eight legs to look like spines, it is indeed conceivable that to the eyes of a potential predator, what might otherwise look like suitable prey, appears in fact as a highly venomous creature that should be avoided.
Sea snake – If under attack, a mimic octopus may hide completely in a hole except for two of its legs, which it sticks out in opposite directions. What remains in view is a long thin object with white and black bands running across the elongated body. Again the prospect of tangling with the highly venomous sea snake is something many predators would not attempt, and they therefore may swim away, leaving the octopus unharmed.
Flatfish– By pulling its arms together on one side, and flattening out his body while moving forward along the ocean floor, the mimic octopus imitates a flatfish.
Jellyfish– The Mimic Octopus will act as a Jellyfish sometimes to frighten and discourage certain predators. It does this by puffing up its head and siphon and letting its arms trail behind it. The octopus will then impersonate the motions of a jellyfish swimming by going to the surface and then slowly sinking with its arms spread evenly around its body.