Tag Archives: Octopus

What color is this octopus?

The answer to the headline is that it depends on the moment and the background. I surprised this day octopus when I came around a corner and it instantly changed color. Then it moved and changed color again. I edged away and it moved and changed color again. It changed about five times over the course of a few minutes and each change was like hitting a light switch – one moment this, next moment that.

Their default color is a gray-brown, but I didn’t see that on this occasion. The red of the center photo is a reaction to being surprised and the two mottled patterns are camouflage attempts.

Posted in response to Becky’s July Squares challenge theme of ‘Perspective.’ See more responses here.

What a day for a day octopus

Day Octopus

Day Octopus on the moveThe trick to spotting an octopus is to see it in motion. I’ve seen one or two when they’ve been stationary, but only by accident, watching something else and realizing that there was something slightly odd about that ‘rock’ next to it.

When I do see an octopus, one of the first things I tend to notice is the siphon and the outdated facial recognition software that is my brain thinks, ‘that’s an eye.’ Except it isn’t.

In the top photo, the eyes of this day octopus can be seen at the highest point of the view. The siphon, orange on the outside and white inside, is below and a little to the right. The siphon, also known as the funnel or hyponome, is used for respiration, waste disposal, and discharging ink. It’s also used for locomotion. Water is taken in through the aperture around the siphon and then expelled out of the siphon, propelling the octopus in the opposite direction.

The bottom photo shows the octopus changing its coloration. They can change their color and texture to blend in with their surroundings. The middle photo shows the octopus saying ‘I’ve had enough of this. Arrivederci.’

Day Octopus on a rock

Touching octopuses

For Valentine’s Day I offer this photo of two day octopuses. It comes with a little story.

One day, while I was snorkeling, I noticed a stocky hawkfish about to plop onto a bit of coral. Before it could settle, a blue goatfish butted it away, getting my attention. I wondered if its presence might mean there was an eel or octopus around since they sometimes hunt together. Almost immediately, just beyond the goatfish, I noticed a day octopus glued to the side of a rock.

I took a couple of photos but knew they wouldn’t be very good; the octopus just looked like another lump of rock. So I began the usual dance I do with an octopus. I edge away, as though I’m leaving, keeping an eye on the octopus out of the corner of my eye. I know the octopus is watching me. Often, when I’ve gone a ways, the octopus will rise up onto whatever rock it’s hiding behind. If I’m quick, I can turn and get a photo before the octopus slides back down again. It’s like we’re connected by a line: I go away, the octopus rises. I return, the octopus sinks.

I swam behind a large chunk of rock, then peeked around the side. Still there, still hidden. A bit farther, another peek. Still there, still hidden. And again. And then I looked away momentarily and when I looked back, the octopus was gone. I think they, like many other creatures, watch a person’s eyes and if the person looks away, off they shoot.

It was a matter of a moment so I knew it couldn’t have gone far. I looked around, examining the rocks. Nothing. They can squeeze into tiny spaces so it was always possible I wouldn’t see it even if it was close by. Then, as I turned around, I caught a glimpse of movement and saw the octopus zip behind a bit of rock. Except then I immediately saw a second octopus follow the first.

I swam around the rock and saw the two of them, each in its own separate crack, a few feet apart. Again I took a couple of photos and then moved away. This time I went farther and waited, watching from a fair distance. Eventually, the octopus on the right of the photo emerged and moved toward the other one. I edged closer and began taking photos. It was then that that octopus slowly eased a tentacle toward the other one, sliding over the rock until it reached up and over the front of the other octopus. It was such a sweet and tender gesture, as though the octopus sought reassurance in making physical contact with its companion.

I took the photo and swam off, leaving them in peace.

Day octopus

A day octopus settles on a patch of coral off the Big Island of Hawaii.

A day octopus settles on a patch of coral. It will change its coloration from moment to moment depending on whether it wants to blend in or, perhaps, display an aggressive warning.

Spotting an octopus is a matter of chance. It helps if it’s on the move, but the presence of goatfish (in this photo, a manybar goatfish), is sometimes a tipoff.


A day octopus and saddle wrasseA day octopus and saddle wrasseIt’s exciting to see an octopus. They’re extremely hard to spot. If it’s not moving, chances are I won’t see it at all. The reason for this is that the octopus is a master of changing color and texture to match its background.

I’ve been lucky enough to see quite a few, once three in one swim. But sometimes there are weeks between sightings. As for photos, the good news is that when I spot an octopus it rarely moves, meaning I have time to get a photo. The bad news is that they blend in so well I invariably end up with offerings where I have to say something like, “It’s right there, near that coral. No, that’s not a rock.”

On this occasion, I spotted movement just before the octopus dipped into a crack in the rock and changed color. We then began a little pas de deux. When I drifted away, the octopus eased up onto the rock. If I closed in again, it slipped back into the crack. The nice thing, from my point of view, was that when it was on the rock it stood out about as well as it was ever going to against a fairly plain background.

I believe this is a day octopus. They’re active during the day and one most commonly seen around here. The passing fish are saddle wrasse.

In my attempts to identify what I see in the water, I use John P. Hoover’s book The Ultimate Guide to Hawaiian Reef Fishes, Sea Turtles, Dolphins, Whales, and Seals. His website is hawaiisfishes.com.