Art Of Disguise: Can Octopuses Camouflage?

can octopus camouflage

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We are learning more and more about the over 300 species of Octopus in our oceans every year, they just keep surprising us.

These animals are masters of escape and evasion, being able to slip into small spaces and avoid predators.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at one of the Octopus’s main evasion techniques, and answer can Octopuses camouflage?

Yes, Octopuses are able to camouflage. These highly intelligent animals have evolved to be able to become masters of camouflage, helping them stay out of harm’s way in the ocean.

Can Octopuses Really Camouflage?

Octopuses are sometimes given the name chameleons of the sea because of their ability to camouflage. It allows them to stay hidden from predators as well as take prey by surprise.

Not only can Octopuses change their color, but they can also change the texture of their skin to blend in with their surroundings.

They do this by controlling the size of projections on their skin, allowing them to create the illusion of small spikes to warn off predators, and smooth bumps to hide.

These animals really are masters of camouflage, and they beat the chameleon’s ability multiple times over.

How Do Octopuses Camouflage?

Cephalopods have specialized cells in their skin called chromatophores, with each chromatophore having a stretchy sac called cytoelastic sacculus that is filled with pigment.

Think of this like a balloon, filled with red, yellow, brown, or black pigment. When the cells around the balloon tighten, they pull the pigment sac wider, meaning more pigment is visible on the Octopuses skin.

Then when they relax their muscles, the pigment sac shrinks back to its original size and less pigment is visible.

Each cell is attached to a nerve, meaning the expansion and contraction are controlled by the nervous system.

This allows them to camouflage incredibly quickly, when they see a predator or prey this prompts them to change color, and their brain will send a signal to the chromatophores.

Why Do Octopuses Camouflage?

There are a number of reasons why an Octopus might camouflage, with the most likely being to avoid being seen by a predator.

Octopuses are eaten by Sharks, Seals, Otters, Sperm Whales, and more. There are a lot of hungry predators on the lookout for an Octopus, so their ability to camouflage is crucial to their survival.

Unlike other marine species, they don’t have a hard shell that offers protection, so they rely on their ability to camouflage to stay hidden.

Some species of Octopus such as the Mimic Octopus will use their camouflage ability to change their shape and color to mimic another animal.

They will often disguise themselves as sea snakes or flatfish so predators will not attack them.

Check out this impressive footage of an Octopus changing color and texture:

Octopuses may also camouflage to attract a mate or to send a warning signal to predators. The Blue Ringed Octopus is one of the most deadly animals on the planet.

This Octopus will flash its blue rings to warn predators that it is not to be messed with and for them to stay away.

Another reason Octopuses camouflage is to hunt prey. Hiding in plain site is a great way for Octopuses to catch their favorite meal off guard, crabs.

They will blend in with their surroundings and wait until an unsuspecting crab walks right by them, before pouncing and injecting it with venom.

What Type Of Octopus Can Camouflage?

All species of octopuses and cephalopods have the ability to change color and camouflage. It’s a survival technique that has evolved over millions of years and kept their species going.

Each species has its own unique way of camouflaging to protect itself, with the more deadly species such as the Blue Ringed Octopus using its blue rings to warn off predators.

Octopus cyanea, also known as the big blue Octopus or day Octopus changes its appearance over 150 times per hour when searching for food.

How Fast Can Octopuses Camouflage?

No animal on earth is able to camouflage as fast and effectively as an Octopus. They can change their color and texture in as little as 200 milliseconds or one-fifth of a second.

As the changes happen through the nervous system, they are able to camouflage in an instant.

When they flex or contract their muscles around the cytoelastic sacculus, the pigment rushes to their skin and they change color.

They need to be able to camouflage this fast in order to survive if there was a delay they would not be able to fool predators.

Color-Blind Camouflage

One of the most perplexing findings about Octopuses and their camouflaging ability is that they are colorblind and only see in greyscale.

So how do they know what color their surroundings are and which color to camouflage?

This is still very much a mystery. Some of the pigments in their skin (red, brown, yellow) are common colors underwater for plants and animals, so some passive color coordination could be taking place.

However, the precision and accuracy in an Octopuses camouflage ability demand a better explanation, which sadly we do not have yet.

One theory is that the skin can somehow sense light and color, as it turns out the skin has the same light-detecting molecules as those found in cephalopods’ retinas.

That said, this is still only a theory and one that scientists do not yet know the answer to.

Final Thoughts

So, can Octopuses camouflage? Absolutely, they are some of the best at camouflaging in the whole animal kingdom.

Octopuses are amazing animals that are masters of disguise. Different species are able to use their camouflage ability to hide, warn and even attract mates.

We are just beginning to understand chromatophores and new research is being discovered all of the time.

Only recently a researcher captures footage of Heidi the Octopus changing color in her sleep, leaving people to speculate that she was sleeping.

We are only scratching the surface of what we know and understand about these alien-like creatures, with more research and findings coming out regularly.

Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you’ve learned something new about Octopuses and how they camouflage today.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post as always and feel free to stick around to learn more about the wonderful world of Octopuses!