This week, the Museum is teaming with sciencefriday for cephalopodweek to celebrate a few fascinating animals, including one highlighted in the new Life at the Limits exhibition: the mimic octopus.

Discovered in 1998, the mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) is a 2-foot long species that can parrot not just one but several toxic sea creatures. It’s the first animal of any kind known to shift between multiple imitations, a talent called dynamic mimicry.

Depending on which predator is around, this cephalopod adjusts its posture by folding, splaying, or hiding its arms to copy the shape, texture, and motions of the banded sole, lionfish, or banded sea snake—three toxic animals that all share its light and dark coloring and striped patterns.

Folding its arms behind its head, the mimic octopus moves its body in the manner of a swimming banded sole, a poisonous flatfish. To impersonate a venomous marine sea snake, the octopus pulls six of its arms out of sight, then stretches the remaining two in opposite directions.Scientists have also observed behaviors suggesting these cephalopods have an even bigger repertoire, and may be able to mimic anemones and jellyfish as well. 

Learn more about the mimic octopus on the Museum blog