Disguise in Nature: The 'ninja' in sea
Updated 14:41, 05-Jun-2019
By Xu Chenlu
["china"]
In the shallow sea of Indo-Pacific Ocean lives a “ninja” that is famous for mimicry and camouflage. The mimic octopus, as its name states, is a natural master of disguise.
General information on the mimic octopus. /CGTN Graphic

General information on the mimic octopus. /CGTN Graphic

This octopus usually wanders in shallow water, foraging worms, crabs and small pieces of fish from sand.
With its body exposed to the bright sunlight, the octopus has to do something to trick its predators from easily detecting it. 
Closeup of mimic octopus. /VCG Photo

Closeup of mimic octopus. /VCG Photo

Like most of octopuses, this octopus knows how to change its coloring to match the environment. However, to prevent chances of it being found out, the mimic octopus also has a unique skill – it can contort its body to mimic both the appearances and behaviors of other animals.
Sea snakes are one of the best options for the mimic octopus. When facing predators like damselfish, the octopus will tuck itself into a hole, leaving two tentacles out and rippling them in opposite directions, perfectly resembling the movement of a sea snake. Since damselfish are preyed on by sea snakes, they will turn back and escape immediately.
A mimic octopus is changing coloring to mimic sea snakes. /VCG Photo

A mimic octopus is changing coloring to mimic sea snakes. /VCG Photo

The mimic octopus will also imitate some poisonous animals like the lionfish, stingrays, jellyfish, starfish and even its relative, the notorious blue-ringed octopus which is blamed for killing lots of people.
Mimic octopus. /VCG Photo‍

Mimic octopus. /VCG Photo‍

The mimic octopus has been a favorite subject of scientists because of its ability to mimic multiple species. 

About 'Disguise in Nature' series

Camouflage and mimicry are two ways for creatures to disguise themselves. Disguise can either help them get away from danger, or make themselves perfect predators when hunting for food. 
In this series, we are going to look at several species that are extremely good at disguise. For each article, there will be a game of finding the introduced species for you to try. 
(Cover image via VCG, designed by CGTN's Gao Hongmei.)
(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at nature@cgtn.com.)