04 March 2010


(Thanks, Emma D, for the link!)

Just when you think there's not possibly another thing to love about octopuses, they come up with this. From The Hanlon Lab at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts:

"In the February 2010 issue of The Biological Bulletin, MBL Senior Scientist and cephalopod expert Roger Hanlon and his colleagues report the exceptional camouflage capabilities of the Atlantic longarm octopus, Macrotritopus defilippi, whose strategy for avoiding predators includes expertly disguising itself as a flounder"

And here's the video of a little octopus doing its total flounder thing.

More on the octopus findings:

"Comparing still photographs and video footage from five Caribbean locations collected over the last decade, Hanlon and co-authors, MBL graduate students Anya Watson and Alexandra Barbosa, observed uncanny similarities between the small and delicate octopus and the peacock flounder, Bothus lunatus, one of the most common sand dwellers in the Caribbean. They compared not only coloration, which in each animal resembled the sandy seafloor, but swimming speed and form.
"Just like flounder, the octopuses contoured their bodies to hug the wavy seafloor, tapering their arms behind them. They also swam with the same fits and starts as flounder at the same speeds. Interestingly, the octopuses mimicked flounder only when swimming, when movement would compromise their camouflage. How well the animals blended in with their background differed. The octopus showed more highly controlled and rapid skin patterning than the flounder, whose camouflage was slower and less precise."

Here's Bothus lunatus, the peacock flounder. Photo courtesy Kasey Canton.

Finally, as to why the octopus mimic flounder:

"More study of cephalopod mimicry is needed, but a possible explanation, according to Hanlon and his team, could be that predators who could easily take a bite out of the small, soft octopus might find a rigid flatfish like the flounder too much of a mouthful and avoid them."
I know peacock flounders well from years of diving in the Bahamas, and am now wondering how many I saw might have actually been octopus in disguise!
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