PHUKET, Thailand, March 7 (UPI) -- After capturing a mimic octopus in the Gulf of Thailand, scientists have gotten an up-close and personal appreciation of the physical attributes that enable the species' unique talents of deception.
Previously observed in the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, it's the first capture of a mimic octopus in Thai waters. The occurrence offered marine biologists the chance to get a closer look at its qualities of disguise -- particularly its camouflage colors and textures, which allow it to switch costumes at a moment's notice.
Their conclusions: the mimic octopus has a range that rivals Meryl Streep.
The mimic octopus can fold and flatten itself to flutter its way along the bottom of the ocean like a sole, or fan out its arms and weave about like the poisonous lionfish.
But as Katherine Harmon Courage, author of a book on octopuses, wrote for Scientific American's blog, the mimic octopus' most impressive impression is "burying six of its arms in the sand and extending only two opposing arms to look like the venomous banded sea snake."
The mimic octopus is one of the only cephalopods that hunts during the day, a behavior scientists suggest the species grew into as its abilities as a disguise artist.
"The origins and affinities of the mimic octopus are unclear,” scientists wrote in a recently published paper on their octopus capture. “Lifestyle and habitat preferences might have evolved through a habitat shift from an ancestor that was active during the day, or they could have evolved from an ancestor that was active on soft sediment at twilight or during the night.”
The researchers, who hail from Kasetsart University in Bangkok, published their findings in the Phuket Marine Biological Center Research Bulletin.