Living in the tropical seas of South East Asia, it was not discovered officially until 1998, off the coast of Sulawesi. The octopus mimics the physical likeness and movements of more than fifteen different species, including sea snakes, lionfish, flatfish, brittle stars, giant crabs, sea shells, stingrays, flounders, jellyfish, sea anemones, and mantis shrimp. It accomplishes this by contorting its body and arms, and changing colour.
Although all octopuses can change colour and texture, and many can blend with the sea floor, appearing as rocks, the mimic octopus is the first octopus species ever observed to impersonate other animals.
Based on observation, the mimic octopus may decide which animal to impersonate depending on local predators. For example, when the octopus was being attacked by damselfish, it was observed that the octopus appeared as a banded sea snake, a damselfish predator. The octopus impersonates the snake by turning black and yellow, burying six of its arms, and waving its other two arms in opposite directions.
The mimic octopus is often confused with Wunderpus photogenicus, another recently discovered species. The Wunderpus can be distinguished by the pattern of strong, fixed white markings on its body.
Mimic octopuses have been known to live exclusively in nutrient-rich estuarine bays of Indonesia and Malaysia full of potential prey. They use a jet of water through their funnel to glide over the sand while searching for prey, typically small fish, crabs, and worms. Mimics are also prey themselves. Like other octopuses, their soft bodies are made of nutritious muscle, without spine or armor, and not obviously poisonous, making them desirable prey for such large deep water carnivores as barracuda and small sharks. Often unable to escape such predators, its mimicry of different "poisonous" creatures serves as its best defense. Mimicry also serves to allow it to prey upon animals that would ordinarily flee an octopus; it can imitate a crab as an apparent mate, only to devour its deceived "suitor".
This octopus mimics venomous sole, lion fish, sea snakes, sea anemones, and jellyfish. For example, the mimic is able to imitate a sole by pulling its arms in, flattening to a leaf-like shape, and increasing speed using a jet-like propulsion that resembles a sole. When spreading its legs and lingering on the ocean bottom, its arms trail behind to simulate the lion fish's fins. Raising all of its arms above its head with each arm bent in a curved zig-zag shape to resemble the lethal tentacles of a fish-eating sea anemone, it deters many fish. It imitates a large jellyfish by swimming to the surface and then slowly sinking with its arms spread evenly around its body.
Unlike the vast majority of octopuses, it regularly traverses tunnels and burrows in the sea floor to search for food and to conceal itself from predators. It can often be seen surveying its surroundings from one of these burrows, with only its eyes and head sticking out of the hole.
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