The Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) is surely one of the signature critters of the Lembeh Strait. Even though it can be seen throughout South East Asia (and also some other locations) it is way more likely to encounter this critter here in Lembeh. The Mimic Octopus grows to about 30cm in length (arm length) and is a day active octopus that hides in sand holes – these are abandoned holes that it does not build by himself. The main feature of the “Mimic” is its attractive stripe pattern that he displays when it is excited or scared. The other feature are the different unusual movements and poses that the Mimic Octopus performs. These movements are often described as the mimicing of other animals such as a flounder, a lionfish, a sea snake and others. What the Mimic Octopus is definately doing is sending out a warning with its stripe pattern – wich is the universal signal for “carefull i am poisonous”. But one thing is for sure: it is magical to watch the Mimic Octopus perform and everyone should see this for himself.
The Mimic Octopus is mostly lured out of its hole by diveguides. By tapping their Dive Stick (Muck Stick) in the sand in front of the hole, they make the octopus curious and he will come out to check it out. It is really bad, if dive guides break the hole of the octopus by poking it out with a long stick from underneath. Because like this the octopus has not only to look for a new hole – during that time he is also exposed to dangers.
The mimic os often mistaken for the wonderpus (Octopus photogenicus) and vice versa. And on the first look, they seem to be quite similar – they are about the same size, live on the ground, hide in holes, have a striped pattern and the typical “antennas” on top of their eyes. So what is the difference between a Mimic Octopus and a Wonderpus? There are some very easy points to distinguish them:
1. The Stripes: The stripes of the wonderpus go all the way through to the suckers, whereas the pattern of the mimic has a white line at the one side and some stripes even don’t go through on the thin side of the stripes. Also the Stripes of the Wonderpus are cleaner (have a sharper boarder) than the ones from the Mimic – they seem more painted.
2. The Colour: The Mimic is (dark-)Brown-White striped whereas the Wonderpus has a redish-brown or orange tone.
3. Head/Eyes: The Eyes of the Wonderpus have a drastic V Shape. The Eyes of the Mimic only have a slight V Shape and are almost straight.
4. The head of the Wonderpus also often has a pulsatin patters (so the pattern is animated) … a little bit like with a Flamboyant Cuttlefish. The Mimics patters will come and go … but it wont move.
5. Bottom Structure: The Mimic lives rather in Sandy Bottom and the Wonderpus rather in Rubble-Sand (rougher).
Best places to find Mimic Octopus in Lembeh Strait: All Muck Dive places like Batu Sandar 2 (Rojos), TK 1-3, Retak Larry, Jahir, Aer Bajo, Madidir, Tandu Rusa etc.
Photo Tips: Use a 60mm lens (for close ups) or wider … basicly anything goes until Fisheye with teleconverter.