Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Mimic Octopus: Master of Disguise

The disguises of the mimic octopus: (a) shows a mimic
octopus looking out of its burrow; (b) is a foraging mimic
octopus with coloration to blend with the sand; (c) shows
a mimic octopus as a sole fish and (d) is an actual
sole fish; (e) shows a mimic octopus as a lion-fish and
(f) is an actual lion-fish; and (g) shows a mimic octopus
as a banded sea-snake and (h) is an actual banded
sea-snake. Images from the Norman, 2001 article
 in Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B.
Different animal species have evolved a number of ways to hide in their environments. One of the most popular tactics is by camouflage, often by matching the background or by having patterns that break up the animal's outline (think: zebras and leopards). Others have evolved to resemble other species that are generally toxic or venomous, in a technique called mimicry. But a few amazing species have been recently discovered to have the ability to alter their mimicry to actively imitate a range of species, depending on their circumstances. The most remarkable of these is the mimic octopus, which shifts its shape and behavior to mimic a number of different species as fluidly as a real-life Mystique from the X-Men.

This week at Accumulating Glitches I talk about the remarkable acts of mimicry by one of our planet's most fascinating species, the mimic octopus. Check it out here.

And to learn more, check these out:

1. Norman, M.D., Finn, J., & Tregenza, T. (2001). Dynamic mimicry in an Indo-Malayan octopus Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B,, 268, 1755-1758 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2001.1708

2. Hanlon, R.T., Conroy, L., & Forsythe, J.W. (2008). Mimicry and foraging behaviour of two tropical sand-flat octopus species off North Sulawesi, Indonesia Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 93, 23-38 DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8312.2007.00948.x

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