Scientists have discovered a remarkable species of octopus whose exceptional powers of camouflage mean it can successfully imitate flounder fish in the Atlantic Ocean. In February’s issue of “The Biological Bulletin”, MBL senior scientist Roger Hanlon and his colleagues reported the remarkable capabilities of a kind of long arm octopus called the Macrotitopus defilippi. The animal has been pictured forging its tentacles together while swimming to take on the shape of a flounder fish, and can also mimic its speed and behavior. “While Hanlon and others have documented two other species of octopuses imitating flounder in Indonesian waters, this is the first report of flounder mimicry by an Atlantic octopus, and only the fourth convincing case of mimicry for cephalopods. Comparing still photographs and video footage from five Caribbean locations collected over the last decade, Hanlon and co-authors, MBL graduate students Anya Watson and Alexandra Barbosa, observed uncanny similarities between the small and delicate octopus and the peacock flounder, Bothus lunatus, one of the most common sand dwellers in the Caribbean. They compared not only coloration, which in each animal resembled the sandy seafloor, but swimming speed and form.”
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