How Does An Octopus Change Colour?

How Does An Octopus Change Colour?

Octopus Are The Undisputed Masters Of Mimicry But How Do They Do It?

Dazzling colour changes and perfect camouflage make octopus a favourite with everybody diving in Phuket but how do they perform this magic trick, well it’s not mirrors, sorcery or witchcraft it’s a complex combination of muscle, nerves, brain and skin pigments. By far the most common octopus we see when diving in Phuket is the day octopus (octopus cyanea) so we’ll base our facts around this very convenient creature (we don’t do night dives).

Chromataphores

That’s what the cells are called, octopus have thousands of different colour chromataphores to every square inch of skin. Think of them as tiny balloons filled with coloured ink. The ‘ink balloons’ on most octopus come in black, brown, red, orange and yellow. The octopus sends a signal from the brain via the nerves to the muscle surrounding the balloons, the muscles contract the base of the balloon which enlarges the surface area and pushes the pigment to the top – simple!

As you can see from the video, the colour changes aren’t restricted to just one blanket change but any area of the body can be changed to any available colour to suit it’s needs. It makes the chameleon, an animal renowned for it’s colour changing ability look… well, rubbish.

Colourblind!

Yep, that’s right an animal that can instantaneously change the colour of it’s skin to perfectly match it’s environment, dazzle predators or signal to other octopuses is completely colourblind which makes the ability all the more incredible. Scientists think that their skin is possibly light sensitive, suggesting that they can somehow see with their skin.

Game Of Shadows

Not only can they use camouflage to hide from predators but they can produce a cloud of ink to hide an escape but again as with all things octopus it can do more than just randomly shoot out the ink. They can add mucus to the ink which forms individual shadows in the water that almost exactly matches the animals body mass, predators have been seen to attack these clouds while the octopus slips away.

Camouflaged And Not So Camouflaged Octopus

Camouflaged And Not So Camouflaged Octopus

Intelligent?

It’s suggested they have the relative intelligence of a domestic cat – nothing to boast about about in my opinion, our office cat is fairly dense. We’ve all heard about octopus predicting world cup results, escaping from the impossible and learning how to unscrew jars but gauging an animals intelligence to how our brain works is extremely difficult.

Asking an octopus to solve a simple maths question would probably result in a blank weary stare as an answer but maybe think about reversing the roles. If an octopus asked us to do something that’s straight forward to them such as changing the colour of your skin to red and white stripes, producing a cloud of toxins from your anus (oh oh, can do!) or throwing away your left arm all but the most determined/disturbed of us would come up short – now who’s the idiot…

Live Fast, Die Young!

Most animals with any level of intelligence live for at least a couple of years and in most cases a lot longer, sadly it’s not the case for our day octopus. They have a lifespan of only 12 to 15 months, they grow very fast and when young can increase their body weight by 5% a day!

When mating the octopus around Phuket are far less timid than usual, there visual signals to each other are mesmerising to watch but unfortunately it’s a bitter sweet moment, it signals the final phase of both sexes lives. The female will find a hole to lay and guard her eggs and will die as soon as they’ve hatched. The male will still carry on for a little while killing females softly with his love but will soon go belly up.

Angry And Frightened Colour Changes

Angry And Frightened Colour Changes

High Protein Diet

Octopus are veracious predators and need plenty of food to fuel they’re incredibly fast growth rates. Crabs and other crustaceans are quickly enveloped in a seemingly unfair number of arms then bitten with the parrot like beak which is also covered in a toxic saliva (all cephalopods are believed to be venomous to a certain degree). They also have a radula (freaky rasping tongue) that can drill through shell fish then inject toxins to make it release it’s body from the shell.

Finding Octopus

The easiest solution is to rely on our keen eyed guides and instructors but there are a couple of tell tale signs to look out for. If you see a hole in the reef surrounded by freshly moved rubble and some random crab and snail shells then it’s probably an octopuses lair. Small groupers will follow octopus when they’re hunting so if you see an unusually large congregation all staring at the same place then there could be an octopus nearby.

Find Your octopus With Local Dive Thailand

Posted in Rare & Peculiar Critters on .

Popular Services

the best scuba diving team in phuket

Local Dive Thailand Team

Sir Richard Branson is famed for saying that you "should train your staff so that they could leave, but treat them well enough so they don't" and that is the motto we work with here at Local Dive Thailand. We might be a large, tour leading scuba diving agency but we know the value of quality staff. Some of our dive instructors and guides have been with us since we first started operating. Many have been diving in Phuket & Thailand their whole [...]

Find Out More
Surin Island Dive Site Richelieu Rock

Richelieu Rock – Thailand’s Great All Rounder

Very few dive sites can match Richelieu Rock for variety. So much so that it can be a bit of a nightmare for photographers choosing which lens to take. On its day regarded as one of the top ten dive sites in the world and is certainly the best in Thailand. Allegedly 'discovered' by Jacques Cousteau with the help of local fisherman. There is much debate on how Richelieu Rock got its name so it's nice to think that the great man had some involv [...]

Find Out More

Daily Schedules

M/V Kepsub Schedule

Jobs @ Local Dive Thailand

Local Dive Thailand is one of Phuket's fatest growing & most vibrant scuba diving operations, we are always looking for quality staff to join us, so feel free to have a look at our jobs listing page.

Job Listings

Contact LDT

Local Guides, Local Knowledge, Local Experiences

Don't trust your diving to amateurs or freshly minted dive guides, dive with local experienced experts from Local Dive Thailand. Our Scuba Diving Phuket Tours will take you to see the rarest of the rare critters, you will be amazed by the macro life our guides can find, in the secret places only they know. To put it in perspective, if you were going to climb Mount Everest you would certainly hire a local sherpa to lead the way & keep you safe. Diving is similar because there is absolutely no substitute for local experience & local knowledge, Local Dive Thailand's guides are Phuket's Sherpa's of the Andaman Sea!

Learn More About Us

Scuba Diving Phuket, Phi Phi & Thailand

When talking about Scuba Diving in Phuket, you should believe the hype, many seasons we have had Whale Sharks grace us on our regular and easy to reach dive sites and on a good day you can add Sea Horses, Sea Moths, Snake Eels, Frog Fish & Octopus to what you can see on any given dive and so much more. If we are heading to Phi Phi Island for the day, you can possibly see Hawksbill Sea Turtles and Black Tip Reef Sharks, also don't forget the King Cruiser, 84 meters of beautiful wreck and the most amazing reef nursery for fish and nudibranch. Local Dive Thailand day trip tours to these locations are not to be missed when you are scuba diving Phuket, get in touch with us and book an 'awesome' day of diving.

Book Your Day Trip

Related News From Local Dive Thailand

See why we are Thailand's leading scuba diving Phuket tour provider, stay up to date & watch out for news & special liveaboard offers!

aqualung i450T colours Equipment We Like

Aqualung i450T Dive Computer

Having used the same computer brand for nearly 20 years, it was hard to jump ship from something that had only occasionally let me down. Especially to a brand that is although well trusted in the other diving equipment would be their first foray into the dive computer market. So enticed by a great deal and free in house quick and efficient repairs I decided to take a chance. The Aqualung i450T certainly looks the part, a sleek design a [...]

Read Full Story
similan island liveaboards mv pawara and mv sawasdee fasai cruising Diving Discounts & Special Offers

Last Chance For Discount On Similan Island Liveaboards

MV Pawara 4 Days/4 Nights 14 Dives Master THB 37,700 THB 33,930 Deluxe THB 34,700 THB 31,230 Standard THB 32,700 THB 29,430 Budget THB 26,700 THB 24,030 MV Sawasdee FaSai 4 Days/4 Nights 14 Dives Master THB 42,700 THB 38,430 Deluxe THB 37,700 THB 33,930 Standard THB 34,700 THB 31,230 Budget THB 28,700 THB 25,830 Transfers from Phuket, nitrox, ridiculous amounts of food, tea, coffee, water, weights, weight, belts, guides are al [...]

Read Full Story
similan islands discounts 2019 Diving Discounts & Special Offers

2019 Similan Islands Discount On Manta Queen Fleet

Whale Shark action has been hotting up in the Similan Islands National Park. We're just over the half way point of the season and the diving is getting better. So take advantage of this great deal on the Manta Queen fleet in April 2019 to dive the magnificent North Andaman Sea. Not only this season but if you're planning to visit Thailand for scuba diving in October 2019, we can offer you an early booking discount. Get THB 3,000 of any Man [...]

Read Full Story

Local Dive Thailand Office In Phuket


Find Us On Google Maps