What’s that on the rock?
By Michelle Marraffini
Invertebrate Zoology Lab
The invertebrate zoology class took a field trip to Asilomar State Beach last week to look for cool creatures. Professor Jon Geller encouraged us to turn over rocks looking for flatworms, the topic of this week’s lecture. As I overturned one rock I noticed something quickly hunker down. It was this tiny octopus that tried to camouflage itself with the rock. An octopus’s boneless body is well suited for changing its shape and its ability to mimic other animals, algae, and rocks or sand can be quite impressive. Check out this video of an octopus camouflaging itself (‘Where’s the Octopus?‘). These extraordinary animals are different from other camouflaging animals because they not only change their color and shadow but they also change the texture of their skin to match their background and they do all of this by sight!
Their very kein eyes detect the object they wish to look like and control over 30 million chromatograms (color producing cells) and papilla (cause the three dimensional shape of the skin). Octopus’s do this while color blind which mystifies scientists.
This octopus I found is likely a Pacific red octopus (Octopus reubescens), though it swam away before I could get a good look (no animals were harmed in the making of this blog post). This is so far the coolest creature I have seen in the intertidal. Get outside and see what you can find!