Pharyngula

Friday Cephalopod: Peek-a-boo octopus

It’s a bonus movie for the Friday Cephalopod: the octopus is a master of camouflage.

Comments

  1. #1 NatureSelectedMe
    June 30, 2006

    That’s amazing. Chameleons have nothing on Cephalopods. I wonder how they do it. I don’t mean the mechanical pigment changes but how do they decide what pattern to make. They have great eye-skin coordination.

  2. #2 Barry
    June 30, 2006

    PZ, there’s one part which looks like a CGI effect there, where the part of the octopus on the left changes both color and pattern, to match what’s behind it.

  3. #3 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    June 30, 2006

    Amazing

  4. #4 Matt McIrvin
    June 30, 2006

    It’s the variations in texture that have always astonished me–changing color is one thing, but the octopus can even make parts of its skin stick out in lumps to match the surrounding surfaces. That’s what really makes it seamlessly invisible.

  5. #5 BigHeathenMike
    June 30, 2006

    Well that’s the coolest darn thing I’ve seen in a while. The weird part is that I’ve seen this one (or one very similar) before, and it’s just as wicked cool now that I’m seeing it again.

    Is there a superhero who can camouflage like that? I’d buy a comic book about a diver who gets beaked by a radioactive octopus and gets its powers of disguise. Oh, and maybe s/he could write with his/her inky finger.

  6. #6 CCP
    June 30, 2006

    “maybe s/he could write with his/her inky finger”

    …or Noodly Appendage…

  7. #7 stevie_nyc
    June 30, 2006
  8. #8 QrazyQat
    June 30, 2006

    Octopus, I have Mr. Lucas on the line. ILM wants to make you an offer.

  9. #9 mjfgates
    June 30, 2006

    By the fifth time I watched this video, I felt pretty sure I could tell which bits of that– coral? Seaweed? Whatever that thing is– were actually octopus; they didn’t move the way the rest of it did. Then the octopus turned white, and one of the bits that I was *totally* certain was cephalopod turned out to be some of the plant.

    That’s just freakin’ incredible. All this, AND the greatest nervous system of any invertebrate… you know that one of these days, they’re going to come up out of Puget Sound, wearing their armored landsuits, and mercilessly conquer us. You do know that, right?

  10. #10 Spike
    June 30, 2006

    “… how do they decide what pattern to make.”

    Or do they only put themselves onto surfaces that they have evolved to blend into? Know what I mean?

    It’s hard to tell how big the shark and octopus were in that other video – maybe 5 or 6 feet for the shark?

    I like how the octopi are “smart” enough that, once the jig is up, they don’t bother with the camouflage anymore. The one above just turns white before it swims away, and the other one switches back to red just before it grabs the shark.

    In _Analog_ magazine there was a story about an octopus in an orbital aquarium. The author surmized that without gravity, the octopus’ nervous system would be freed up to the point where it could eventually become a space-shuttle pilot.

  11. #11 NatureSelectedMe
    June 30, 2006

    Or do they only put themselves onto surfaces that they have evolved to blend into? Know what I mean?

    I know I’ve seen clips (I don’t know where) about cuttlefish being put on a checkerboard and matching that. It’s also mentioned in this paper on Artificial Intelligence.

  12. #12 Spike
    June 30, 2006

    Here’sa great paper about that very thing:

    Cuttlefish camouflage: visual perception of size, contrast and number of white squares on artificial checkerboard substrata initiates disruptive coloration

    http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/content/full/204/12/2119

  13. #13 fruktkake
    July 1, 2006

    Holy inferiority complex, that was sweet… And when they play it backwards, it´s like it´s melting!

    …(some joke featuring shark repellent Batspray that I can´t think of right now)…

  14. #14 Pieter B
    July 1, 2006

    PZ, I posted a link to that video on a couple of message boards, and someone responded with this one. Wow.

  15. #15 cephalopodcast
    July 1, 2006

    This video has been widely pirated without attribution. It is the work of Dr. Roger Hanlon at The Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole. On his MBL website, you can see another, smaller video of an octopus trying to look very much like a “moving rock.”

  16. #16 Paul S
    July 1, 2006

    Now that is damned impressive.

  17. #17 Paul S
    July 2, 2006

    A curious question about that second video – the one that Pieter posted.

    I have read that sharks have an unusual sensory organ that detects the electrical field associated with complex living organisms. I would have thought that something like that would have made the octopus’s camouflage irrelevant. Is it species-specific, or imprecise, or is the whole claim just a myth?

  18. #18 cephalopodcast
    July 2, 2006

    I would have thought that something like that would have made the octopus’s camouflage irrelevant. Is it species-specific, or imprecise, or is the whole claim just a myth?

    Sharks do have electroreception. But one of the dirty little secrets of wildlife filmakering is that natural behavior is sometimes manipulated. The narrator says this actually happened. I don’t know for certain, but it would not surprise me to learn that the shark (or sharks) were forced into the arms of the octopus (repeatedly) for the shot. Or maybe the filmmakers got really lucky. It happens sometimes, like with this shot of an octopus tangling with an eel and “winning.”

  19. #19 lloydletta
    July 8, 2006

    These were much more charming than this:

    http://dumpbachmann.blogspot.com/2006/07/michele-bachtopuss.html

  20. #20 Zoasterboy
    September 19, 2008

    The video has been removed from YouTube. 🙁

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