The Mysterious Mimic Octopus: The Master Of Disguise

Scientific Name: Thaumoctopus mimicus

Geography:  Australia, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Red Sea are all part of the Indo-Pacific.

Habitat:  Waters with sandy or silt bottoms

Diet: Carnivores

Behavior: Active during the day

Life Span:1-2 years

Conservation Status: Not yet evaluated

Threats: Humans, larger fish species, and golden trevally


It’s possible that it isn’t a lionfish when you encounter one while diving in Indo-Pacific seas. It’s possible that the mimic octopus is to blame.

The mimic octopuses are very clever and attractive creatures. They can impersonate the looks, textures, and actions of over 15 different species. No other species on the planet can do it.

Octopuses come in over 300 different kinds. The mimic octopus can hide right in plain sight, unlike many other octopus species that hide away all day.

What Do We Call Them?

The mimic octopus, Thaumoctopus mimicus, is the sole member of its genus. The species was not named until 2005, even though it was discovered in 1998. Their talent to imitate other creatures gives them their name, of course.

What Do They Look Like?

Little octopuses that grow to just 2ft (0.6m) in length are known as mimic octopuses. Their mantle is just 2 inches (58 millimeters) long. As a result, the mantle can be up to ten times longer than the arms.

Their arms are a pale to dark brown coloration when they aren’t trying to imitate another animal. Some have a stripe pattern that goes down their body and limbs, which is brown and white. Rather than striping, some individuals’ colors may have more mottling.

Their mantle, like their body, is brown with irregular white markings. On the middle or front of their dorsal mantle, however, you’ll also notice a teardrop-shaped ring. On their dorsal mantle, they have a “U” shape.

Their skin is usually very soft. Nevertheless, around the border of the mantle, they have tiny bumps called “papillae.” For protection, each eye has extensive, pointed papillae.

The length of their arms is 283 suckers long.

How & Why Do Mimic Octopuses Change Color?

Because it protects them, mimic octopuses choose to alter their color in this manner. They may alter their hue to match their surroundings. They can also alter their appearance to make themselves appear more frightening.

Using its arms, the mimic octopus may replicate the motions of the animal it’s imitating. They may lull prospective attackers into believing they are not worth the attempt.

What Are Chromatophores?

Chromatophores, pigment-containing cells that allow octopuses to change their appearance, are found in mimic octopuses. The deeper layers of the skin are home to these cells. The pattern of an animal’s skin is determined by their distribution throughout the body.

Chromatophores are found in many animals and may alter their color. The mimic octopus, on the other hand, appears to be far better at it.

The mimic octopus can change color through chromatophores, which constrict. The animal can instantly alter its look because the cells constrict quickly.

Which Animals Can It Mimic?

Only one species is capable of being imitated by most animals. The mimic octopus can imitate three distinct species, according to research.

Several divers claim to have seen mimic octopuses copy many additional species as well. The majority of researchers believe that they can imitate at least 15 different species. Divers have claimed to have seen the following species imitate them:

  • Anemones
  • Stingrays
  • Crocodile snake eels
  • Nudibranchs
  • Sponges
  • Tube worms
  • Colonial tunicates
  • Jellyfish
  • Feather stars
  • Giant crabs
  • Mantis shrimp
  • Seahorses

Based on which predator is nearby, mimic octopuses may pick which one to imitate. It will, for example, “transform” into a sea snake if it sees a damselfish. The damselfish’s major predators are sea snakes, which use this approach effectively.

Lionfish, sole (flatfish), and sea snakes are among the animals mimicking octopuses can imitate.


By spreading out its arms to resemble the fish’s dangerous spines, it imitates the lionfish. These spines are aggressive and poisonous on a genuine lionfish. As a result, most predators avoid them.

The mimic octopus’s stripes match those of the lionfish, which are brown and white. As a result, their color won’t have to shift much.

They can also swim underwater. As the lionfish does, this gives them the appearance of swimming through the water column.

Sole (Flatfish)

It’s no surprise that the mimic octopus likes to imitate Soles, since they’re poisonous fish.

The sole is a fish that swims across the ocean floor on a flat, leaf-shaped fish. This behavior is exhibited by the mimic octopus. It’ll flatten out its body by pulling its arms against it.

Sea Snake

It’s also critical for mimic octopuses to imitate venomous sea snakes.

The octopus will draw its body inside the burrow once they have a burrow toCalling. Outside the burrow, they’ll lay two arms down on the beach. Their arms are striped black and white, which acts as a deterrent against predators.


Large sand anemones that can sting are thought to be imitated by the mimic octopus. With its arms raised above its head in all directions, the octopus will sit on top of sand found.


Mimic octopuses have been observed mimicking crab mating rituals, according to researchers. The octopuses will capture a “potential partner” and make a meal out of them once the crab gets close enough.

Where Can We Find Them?

In the Indo-Pacific, the mimic octopus was found in 1998. The waters are tropical, and they reside in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.

They call Lizard Island home in northeast Australia. They can then be found in New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea from there. They have a wider distribution throughout Indonesia. Afterwards, the route goes north to the Philippines and west to the Red Sea.

Where Do They Live?

Shallow oceans with sandy or silt bottoms are preferred by them. They dwell at depths of roughly 1.5ft (0.5m) to 121ft (37m). Habitats near river and estuary mouths are common examples.

Octopuses favor reef environments with many hiding spots. The mimic octopus leaves them vulnerable to predators, with just a few hiding places. Their mimicking ability is most likely the result of this. In a setting where it’s difficult to conceal oneself, it allows them to stay secure.

These guys are fantastic diggers, and they’ll create their own burrows inside the sand. They may steal a burrow from fish, crabs, or worms if they don’t feel like building their own.

What Do Mimic Octopus Eat?

Octopuses that mimic other octopuses are carnivores who consume just about anything they can get their hands on. Worms, fish, crustaceans, and echinoderms are among their favorite foods.

They will seek out their prey on the sand because they are a benthic species. They have no qualms about reaching inside burrows with their long arms to grab their next meal. They flare their web to capture the victim after putting their arm down the hole.

These guys are also noted for digging through huge caverns. Researchers have spotted them carrying prey in and out of a hole that is too small.

What Do Their Lives Look Like?

Remember how the mimic octopus can imitate a sea snake by hiding inside a burrow? That’s because they’re fantastic diggers and burrowers, of course! They may even explore subterranean tunnels and dig their own burrows. They don’t even seem to be afraid of putting their hands inside random holes.

Octopuses are mostly active at night. Because of the darkness, they may conceal themselves better from predators. The mimic octopus, on the other hand, may be active all day because it is a master of disguise.

Octopuses are mostly nocturnal animals. They may conceal themselves from predators better when the cover of night is present. The mimic octopus, on the other hand, can be active at any time of day because it is a master of disguise.

How do they keep safe while they’re sleeping? It’s simple to do. The sandy bottom serves as an excellent resource for them.

When they need to rest at night, they’ll just conceal in their burrows. They’ll bury themselves in the sand all day, just leaving their eyes exposed. This allows them to be aware of what is going on at the same time that they are relaxing.

How Do Mimic Octopus Reproduce?

The male mimic octopus displays a “hectocotylus” during mating, just like other male octopuses. A specialized arm is a hectocotylus. They use it to transport a spermatophore, which is a minor package of sperm.

The female’s mantle may be used by males to place their hectocotylus. The sperm will be delivered straight from them. The male may also simply present his spermatophore to the female at other times. Until she is ready to utilize it, she will keep it safe.

The male’s hectocotylus, like that of other octopuses, will also fall off after mating. After mating, he will typically die after a few months of living.

Females who lay their eggs perish shortly after. For a while, they’ll guard their eggs from predators by brooding over them. The female’s health will deteriorate dramatically just before the eggs hatch, and she will die.

Juvenile octopuses dwell in “planktonic clouds” after they hatch.

They devour everything in sight, hoping to grow as quickly as possible. These octopuses have a greater chance of becoming a meal the smaller they are. Octopuses account for 1-2% of all octopuses who reach maturity.

How Long do Mimic Octopus Live?

The mimic octopus, like other octopuses, has a short lifespan. They have a lifespan of one to two years on average.

Conservation Status & Population

The mimic octopus has not been evaluated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. As a result, its current population growth rate is unknown.

Threats and Predators

The golden trevally is the main mimic octopus predator. Other large fish species, on the other hand, pose a threat to them.

Mimicry is the chief defense mechanism of a mimicking octopus against predators. The imitation isn’t always sufficient to trick the predator. However, until the octopus can escape, it may be sufficient to surprise and divert the predator.

The mimic octopus, like other octopuses, may discharge a black liquid. Predators may be distracted by this substance, allowing the octopus to escape.

Human Threats

OCTOPUSES are not a type of octopus that people typically consume. Humans, on the other hand, continue to endanger them. Mimic octopuses pique the interest of aquarium owners, and many would like to keep them.

These animals’ commercial demand is rising. This may pose a threat to their societies. There aren’t many of these octopuses, so we don’t know how many they have. Even for research purposes, sightings are uncommon and difficult to locate.

Ecological Role

As a predator, the mimic octopus has a significant ecological function. Because they are masters of disguise, they are unable to become victims. They, on the other hand, prey on tiny animal species that help keep populations in check.

Mimic Octopus in Popular Media — Hank the Octopus

Hank, voiced by Ed O’Neill and appearing in Disney’s “Finding Dory,” played an important part in the film. The mimic octopus made an significant entrance.

Hank’s character, like the complex mimic octopus itself, proved difficult to bring to life. It took almost three years to perfect Hank, according to Supervising Technical Director John Halstead. Because of the octopus’s lack of a skeleton and flexibility, this was the case.

Hank, on the other hand, is not a real mimic octopus but rather a fictional one. All down the bodies of real-life mimic octopuses are brown and black stripes. Hank is a rich, orangish-red hue.

In comparison to a genuine mimic octopus, Hank’s arms are significantly shorter. Little mantles with arms that stretch 7-10 times the length of their body characterize mimic octopuses.

Hank has a huge mantle and tiny arms. The length of Hank’s arms was reduced in half for better animation, according to Jason Deamer, the character art director.

Hank’s shoulders are tiny, and his cloak is very massive. Hank’s arms were even shortened in half for improved animation, according to Jason Deamer, the character art director.

Hank’s mouth is another way he differs from the real Hank. Without a visible mouth, it’s difficult to develop an animated character.

Hank seems to be missing a mouth because an octopus’s mouth is on the underside of its body. The animators opted to give Hank a mouth on the front side of his body, despite the fact that they kept the mouth out of most of the frames.

Hank, on the other hand, shares certain characteristics with the real mimic octopus. Dory’s mission is aided by his color-changing and form-shifting skills. He’s also a bright guy, much like the actual animal. He even drives a truck and expertly escapes his enclosure.

Mimic Octopus FAQs

How many brains does a mimic octopus have?

A “mini brain” allows an octopus to independently control each of its eight arms, according to researchers.

They do, however, have a top-down brain that controls them uniformly. With their centralized brain, octopuses have more difficulty regulating their arms. It is, however, conceivable.

How many hearts does a mimic octopus have?

The octopus possesses several hearts in the same way that it possesses numerous brains. Three hearts govern an octopus’s life. Blood flows through the organs of their bodies thanks to one of their hearts. The octopus gets oxygen from the blood that is pumped through the gills by the other two hearts.

Is the mimic octopus edible?

Nobody seems to be willing to eat the mimic octopus, despite the fact that it is probably edible. The common octopus, Octopus vulgaris, is the most commonly consumed octopus.

Can octopuses mimic humans?

Whether or not mimic octopuses can imitate humans is still unknown. The most likely response is “no,” in all likelihood.

Do octopuses make good pets?

Octopuses are not normally recommended as pets, despite the fact that they can be kept as such. It is best suited for individuals with a lot of aquarium keeping experience.

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