Off the coast of Indonesia, a mimic octopus lurks in warm, shallow water. It’s hard to spot the brown creature as it haunts the murky and muddy seafloor, easily blending into the background as it sneaks up on its next meal.
But that’s far from the octopus’s only trick. It changes shape and color in a flash to scare off predators. It can morph into what appear to be the venomous spines of a lion fish, or turn black and white to resemble a dangerous sea snake. Predators like crabs scuttle away in fear. Scuba divers have reported sightings of mimic octopuses masquerading as jellyfish, shrimp, crabs, seahorses, and stingrays.
The mimic octopus is just one of 300 octopus species swimming in the world’s oceans. And it’s not the only species with clever ways to camouflage itself. Most octopuses can change color, while others find sneaky hideaways in the tiniest nooks—in a coral reef or even coconut shells.
October 8 is World Octopus Day, in honor of these amazing animals. “People find connections with octopuses. They look into their big eyes and feel they have something in common,” says Christine Huffard, a biologist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California.