by B. N. Sullivan
We have encountered octopuses frequently wherever we have dived, and they are fascinating creatures to observe underwater. They can change their coloration and the texture of their skin readily to camouflage themselves. Take a look at the above image of a Caribbean Reef Octopus (Octopus briareus), which I photographed in the Cayman Islands. It can change its skin color from a dark reddish shade to the almost iridescent green you see here. The skin texture can change from smooth, to rough or prickly looking to mimic the surface texture of the rock or coral on which the octopus is resting.
Octopuses also can squeeze through incredibly small spaces, since they have no skeleton, either internally or externally. We have seen these creatures slide their bodies between lobes of coral that were practically touching each other, and flatten themselves to pass through a crack in the wall of a cavelet. It's a most amazing sight -- almost magical.
I recently discovered the video below on YouTube. It had no accompanying explanatory information other than its title -- "Octopus escaping through a one inch hole" -- but it appears to be an experiment to illustrate the shape shifting ability of the octopus. At the beginning of the video, the octopus is inside what looks like a clear lucite box. In the course of the next 30 seconds, the octopus manages to extricate itself from the box by passing through the round hole in the side of the box -- and quite effortlessly at that.
Watch the video and you will see why we think of the octopus as Nature's ultimate shape shifter!
If the video does not play or display properly above, click here to view it on YouTube.
Hat tip to YouTube user defosterr, who posted the video to YouTube three years ago.