Ask a Scientist: Master of Disguise

Jordan asks, “I am a 6th grader doing a report about the mimic octopus. I would like to know if you could answer my questions. What is the mimic octopus’ diet? Where can you find them? Are they poisonous? Do they attack humans? Are they friendly?

Hi Jordan! Wow, so many questions . . . to start off with, mimic octopuses live in shallow parts of the Indo-Pacific Ocean (near countries such as Indonesia, Australia, and Japan). They are predators and use their stealthy swimming and expert mimicry to catch smaller animals like fish, shrimp, and crabs. The mimic octopus is not venomous, but sometimes they mimic the appearance of other venomous species, such as lionfish, in order to trick the octopus’s own predators into leaving them alone! As for whether they are friendly, octopuses are generally shy and secretive creatures, and most prefer to live solo except when it comes time to mate. The mimic octopus is only about 2 feet long and is not dangerous to humans. If you were lucky enough to spot one swimming in the ocean, the octopus would probably try to hide from you!


Want to see the mimic octopus in action? Check out this video of the mimic octopus demonstrating some of its expert disguises! If you’d like to learn even more about the mimic octopus, check out this external article or read the Ethogram’s Creature Feature on the mimic octopus.

If you have any questions about animals for our scientists, you can submit themย here.

Jessica Schaefer is a PhD student in the Animal Behavior Graduate Group at UC Davis. She studies the behavior and mating systems of creatures from limpets to lizards to birds. Jessica loves poking around tide pools and looking at coastal animals and algae.

Main image [Source]: A mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus)

[Edited by Nicole W. Korzeniecki]

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