Image: Elias Levy, Flickr

This amazing sea specimen takes on the shape of other animals as a defense mechanism, easily morphing from one form to the next.

The mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) was first encountered by scientists in 1998 off the coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia. This creature grows to an average of two feet in length and naturally dons a light brown color, but is capable of transforming size, shape, and appearance according to surrounding marine life. It is capable of mimicking more animals than any other marine creature and boasts the widest range of defensive forms to date.

The mimic octopus often transforms from light beige to a striped brown and white color to appear similar to other poisonous species. It uses its art as a way of camouflage as well as a defense mechanism, changing both skin tone and texture to either blend into its environment or ward off potential predators.

Image: Silke Baron, Wikimedia Commons

This creature has been observed taking on the form of algae-encrusted rock and coral, poisonous fish such as the lionfish, sea snakes, flatfish, and even jellyfish.

In addition to color and shape, the mimic octopus mirrors other animals’ body movements, including speed and swimming motions. For example, while at rest it may take on the innocuous form of a harmless sponge or turnicate in motion it might purposefully resemble a more imposing flatfish.

These animals serve as the epitome of mimicry defense mechanisms in nature, utilizing both Batesian and aggressive mimicry methods. They are reputed to be able to imitate fifteen different species of local marine life.

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