Mimic Octopus Thaumoctopus Mimicus, Habitat – South East Asia and the Pacific
The Mimic Octopus was only discovered in 1998 in Sulawesi, Indonesia. According to reports they have also been found on the inner parts of the Great Barrier Reef in 2012, also there have been sightings in Thailand and the Philippines
Their diet is similar to other octopi which consists of small fish, worms and small crabs. They are generally found shallower than 15 meters and they like to hang around warmer murky waters to hunt their prey.
They have 3 main defense tactics.
The primary defense they elude predators is to make themselves look like a variety of different animals. Many animals can disguise themselves to look like another animal, but the mimic octopus has been known to change its form into around 12 different types of marine animals. They are known to choose what animal to mimic based on what is attacking them, so if a damsel was attacking a mimic octopus they would change themselves to mimic a sea snake by changing the colors of their tentacles to black and white. They have also been known to take the forms of poisonous lion fish, jellyfish and even flounder fish.
The second defense mechanism they use is similar to all other octopi, which is to discharge their ink sack when being attacked by a predator, temporarily obscuring the predator’s vision, and then propelling themselves away using what’s known as “jet propulsion”, they suck water into a muscular sac in the mantle cavity surrounding their bodies and expel it out with great force through a narrow siphon.
The third way they defend themselves is camouflage, they will color themselves and shape their bodies to similar topography such as sand, coral or rocks.
I have actually seen one of them many years ago on one of the dive sites in Phuket (I believe it was Shark Point) turn itself into a Porcupine Puffer Fish complete with a black spot for an eye. I initially thought, geez that looks like a weird puffer fish, maybe I have too much nitrogen in my system and I am a bit ‘narked’. I then saw it reform into an octopus and take off very quickly, I then realized that I had seen a very rare mimic octopus.
2 days ago I was fortunate enough to see one while scuba diving at Kata Beach at around 10m deep, I hung around it for a few minutes where it was just happily sitting in the sand, so I took a couple of quick photos and moved on. Again, I didn’t realize what I had seen until I was out of the water and asked my friends to ID it on Facebook.
After chatting with a few of my Facebook buddies I was told that they are indeed very difficult to find. But are spotted with some degree of regularity at Phuket Dive Tours house reef, Kata Beach North. I will be keeping a much keener lookout for these guys in the future and hopefully grab some video next time.
By Sam Kelly