This was linked to in Claire Barnes’ letter. Thanks to Linc for also pointing it out to me last week.
Just when we think we have some sort of appreciation for the subtle beauty of evolution, another surprise comes along to remind us just how complex and multilayered the world truly is.
Discovered in 1998 off the coast of Sulawesi in Indonesia, the mimic octopus is the first species discovered that takes on the characteristics of multiple species. So far, we know that this octopus can copy the physical and behavioural characteristics of a number different species, many of them poisonous whilst others are merely dangerous, including sea snakes, lionfish, flatfish, brittle stars, giant crabs, sea shells, stingrays, jellyfish, sea anemones, and mantis shrimp. Furthermore, this octopus is so intelligent that it is able to decide which dangerous sea creature to impersonate that will act as the greatest deterrent to whatever predatory animal threatens it. For example, scientists observed that when the octopus was attacked by damselfishes, it mimicked the banded sea snake, a known predator of damselfishes.
But before I go further with this story, let me introduce you to the Indonesian mimic octopus, Thaumoctopus mimicus, a master of disguises: