Caught on Film: Mimic Octopus Gets Mimicked by Jawfish

Caught on Film: Mimic Octopus Gets Mimicked by Jawfish

Charles Caleb Colton once said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Some people like to mimic for entertainment, but animals do it for survival! The Mimic Octopus has long been known for its ability to transform its looks to protect itself from predators. However, Godehard Kopp, of the University of Gottingen in Germany, caught on film an unlikely partnership between a Mimic Octopus and a Black-Marble Jawfish. It appears that the Jawfish actually mimicked the Octopus as it changed colors.

Jawfish Mimics Octopus Banding (Courtesy Journal Coral Reefs)

The footage was taken on a dive in Indonesia. While it is not unusual to see the Mimic Octopus venture out under the guise of its own camouflage, seeing the Jawfish venture out was quite unusual. They are not very good swimmers and typically don’t venture out of the burrows they make in the sand. It appears that this one used “opportunistic mimicry” to transform its own colors to match that of the Octopus. This allowed the little guy to venture out, presumably to forage for food away from the confines of its burrow.

In the image below, notice how the Black-Marbled Jawfish makes itself appear to be a tentacle streaming from the Mimic Octopus. This is a great camouflage job because the Octopus is mimicking a deadly Lionfish pattern so that no predators will want to come its way.

Jawfish Mimic
Notice how the Jawfish looks like a tentacle.

Check out the video of the encounter below.

The ability that this Jawfish shows is unique and is not seen in its Japanese counterparts. For this reason, scientists believe this is opportunistic rather than obligate mimicry. A discovery like this shows how unique and diverse life can be in these coral reefs. Hopefully more can be done to protect this treasure.

For more information about this discovery, the original publication can be seen here.

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Darrin Jenkins

Darrin is an IT manager for a large electrical contractor in Louisville KY. He is married and has 3 kids. He loves helping people with their technology needs. He runs a blog called Say Geek!