Creature Feature: Mimic Octopus

Common Facts:

Scientific name – Thaumoctopus mimicus

Diet – Small fish and crustaceans

Size – Up to 2 feet long, with 25 centimeter arms

Life span – Said to live for around 9 months

Initially, if you happened upon a Mimic octopus, you would think that it was just a normal, slightly small, octopus. But the Mimic octopus is not your typical octopus. These sea creatures have LOTS of tricks up their sleeve.

It is the behavior of the Mimic octopus that makes it stand out and gives it it’s name. “Mimicry is commonly used as a survival strategy in nature. However the mimic appears to be able to take on the appearance of not just 1 other species, but of several.” Not only that, but all of the other species that the Mimic imitates are venomous, making this a deliberate and evolved tactic of survival.

The Mimic octopus can make itself appear to be a Lion fish, sea snake and a sole/flatfish. It bends and shapes it’s body to look just like theirs. Below is a video showing the Mimic octopus in action.

The Mimic octopus also has a lot of the same physical characteristics of other octopus species have. They have the ability to change the color and texture of their skin to blend into their surroundings to protect themselves. They have “8 arms, a mantle containing 3 hearts and other internal organs, and a siphon used for jet propulsion. The arms have 2 rows of suckers, each sucker having a touch sensor and a chemoreceptor, allowing the mimic effectively to feel and taste its food before it eats it. It has a large brain but lacks the sense of hearing.”



Written by: Kari Shirley, intern


Creature Feature: Dumbo Octopus

Credit: Ed Bowlby, NOAA/Olympic Coast NMS; NOAA/OAR/Office of Ocean Exploration

Photo Credit: Ed Bowlby, NOAA/Olympic Coast NMS; NOAA/OAR/Office of Ocean Exploration

We’ve shown you the eerie, the creepy and even the disturbing.  Now to end our month of deep sea creatures we give you the cute: the Dumbo Octopus, Grimpoteuthis spp. You will find this octopus in depths up to 13000 ft making this invertebrate the deepest living octopus! As you’ve probably guessed, the Dumbo octopus gets its name from the classic Disney elephant with ears big enough to fly. This octopus has two fins on top of its mantle, giving it the striking resemblance to Dumbo the elephant.  (Magic feather not included.)

The average size of this adorable creature is eight to 12 inches, though they can get larger. The largest Dumbo octopus ever found was 6ft! This octopus differs from its shallow water relatives the way they feed. The Dumbo octopus has a modified radula, or a rough, toothy sort of tongue. Their modified radula helps this octopus eat their prey whole instead of ripping and tearing them apart.

There is not much known about the cuddly-looking Dumbo octopus but, by venturing into the deep sea to study these creatures, scientists are continuing to discover new information.


Photos curtosy of NOAA Digital Library

Image ID: expl1113, Voyage To Inner Space – Exploring the Seas With NOAA Collect
Location: Washington, Olympic Coast NMS
Credit: Ed Bowlby, NOAA/Olympic Coast NMS; NOAA/OAR/Office of Ocean Exploration 

Low Tide Walk Wonders!

This past sunny Saturday wrapped-up a whirl-wind Winter Season of amazing tide pools.  The natural wonders of Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay have certainly been appreciated, by us and many others in the region.  Parking near the point has grown increasingly challenging, but for our group in particular, the effort was more than worthwhile!

After winding our way to the edge of the exposed shelf, we enjoyed finding hidden treasures such as purple sea urchins, ochre sea stars.  We also noticed a few plump harbor seals enjoying the sun on the rocks warily eyeing us from a nearby rocky outcrop, and were lucky enough to find a lemon nudibranch and clown nudibranch.


Lizzy shares one amazing octopus

The best surprise, though, was saved for last.  On returning to the shore, we crossed paths with fellow MSI instructors as they found not one, not two, but THREE Red Pacific Octopus!  

... while Rachel smiles eye to eye with another!

… while Rachel smiles eye to eye with another!

What’s more, one of them we’ve almost certainly had the pleasure of meeting before.  Back in January, we found one who seemed happy to be alive, as it was missing three of it’s eight arms in what must have been a harrowing escape from some predator.  Saturday’s find included an octopus with three little arms growing back!  Coincidence??  You decide.

Our little friend missing three arms in January...

Our little friend missing three arms in January…



and last Saturday with arms visibly regrowing!

Check our website page Baylines for more upcoming events.  And don’t forget that YOU make MSI successful by sharing what we do with your family and friends.  Word of mouth has kept MSI going for 43 years!  Our biggest event of the year is coming up on April 20, help us spread the news about Earth Day on the Bay!

Best fishes, Aaron

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