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Just what is the wonderpus octopus, anyway? (Besides a great band name, that is)

October 7, 2009 |  5:14 pm

Although it's often confused with a similar species called the mimic octopus, the fabulously named wonderpus octopus is a unique creature in its own right.  (Just how fabulous is this creature?  So fabulous that even its scientific name, Wunderpus photogenicus, is fun to say.)

Wonderpus is native to shallow waters off Indonesia and Malaysia and, although folks began to report sightings of the species in the 1980s, it hadn't been formally described by scientists until a few years ago, when a formal scientific description appeared in the journal Molluscan Research.  Both its coloring and its preferred time of day distinguish it from the mimic octopus (which, unlike the wonderpus, is primarily active during the day -- wonderpus prefers the twilight hours of dusk and dawn). 

It's characterized by a small mantle (the part of the body that contains the mouth and vital organs), which is about an inch to an inch-and-a-half long, and long arms that measure about five to seven times the length of the mantle.  Like snowflakes, the patterns of spots (on the body) and stripes (on the arms) are unique to each individual wonderpus, which allows scientists to keep tabs on individuals.  And, according to the scientific description of the species, the colors become especially pronounced when the creatures are disturbed or threatened, suggesting a sort of warning system to deter would-be predators.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: rifwachterteam via YouTube

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