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The Reef Octopus

reef octopuses found in the waters around Bali

What is it?

The reef octopus is a species of octopus belonging to the class of cephalopods. The reef octopus is characterized by its soft body, lack of external skeleton, and eight arms equipped with suckers. The octopus is relatively large, reaching up to 1.40 meters with its tentacles fully extended, while its body measures only about forty centimeters. Additionally, the color of its body varies depending on the animal's mood.

Why does it hide?

More commonly known as mimicry, the nervous system of the reef octopus allows it to change the color of its body at incredible speeds. The octopus hides to protect itself from predators and to hunt more effectively. By mimicking the colors and patterns of its environment, it becomes less visible to its predators and can therefore evade detection. Moreover, by camouflaging itself, the octopus can approach its prey without being noticed, enabling it to hunt better and catch its prey more easily. This camouflage ability is essential for the survival of the octopus in its natural environment, where it must constantly protect itself from predators and conceal itself to hunt its prey.

As a predator, how does it hunt?

The reef octopus is a methodical hunter that uses its arms to capture its prey. When it spots prey, it approaches slowly using fluid movements and color changes to camouflage itself. Once within range, it rapidly extends its arms to envelop and immobilize its prey. Then, it uses its powerful beak to bite and inject a toxic saliva containing digestive enzymes, which begin to break down the prey's tissues. Once paralyzed, the prey is dragged towards the octopus's mouth to be consumed.

What is its behavior?

When its camouflage tactics fail, the octopus explores other strategies to protect itself. It may then take on a very light color to deter its aggressor by appearing larger and more imposing. If despite this its predator persists, the octopus has no choice but to flee quickly. During its escape, it may release one or more ink jets towards its aggressor, which dissolve in the water, creating a dense blackish cloud to obscure its trajectory and protect itself. Despite all these efforts, if it is injured in its escape and loses an arm, the octopus has the unique ability to regenerate it, offering it a chance of survival even in the most perilous situations.

Is it intelligent?

Researchers describe a form of primary consciousness in octopuses, manifested by their ability to navigate in a memorized space and to have knowledge of the position of parts of their body that they cannot directly see. Because of these cognitive abilities, scientists consider octopuses to be the most intelligent invertebrates.

What about its reproduction?

In the reproductive process, it appears that couples form randomly during encounters, without any rivalries or fights between males for possession of a female. Reproduction of the reef octopus typically involves a complex ritual. Males attempt to attract females through specific behaviors, such as color changes, rhythmic movements, and chemical signals. This species has the ability to reproduce throughout the year, but it experiences a peak in spawning at the beginning of the warm season, followed by a less pronounced secondary peak in the middle of the cold season. During this reproduction period, the female stops feeding about two weeks before laying eggs, and she does not resume feeding until her death, which usually occurs about ten days after the hatching of the offspring. As for the male, it enters a phase of senescence after reaching sexual maturity and fulfilling its reproductive role. The octopus thus has a relatively short lifespan, typically about a year, although it can sometimes live up to a maximum of 15 months.

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