Mimic or Wonderpus?

Lembeh Updates

So, how do you tell the difference between a mimic and a wonderpus? Let’s try to make this clear.

I can understand the confusion telling a mimic from a wonderpus. They are alike. But if you see them side by side, the differences are obvious. Having our guests ask what’s the difference is something I hear a lot of. Seeing mistaken identity on TV and elsewhere does bother me though. Just last week I saw a report on TV about mimic octopus. Great, but they showed footage of wonderpus, white-v and brown mimic and lumped them all under mimic octopus. It wasn’t the first time.

I also recall a visit I made years ago to the Singapore Aquarium, where I saw a forlorn wonderpus in a tiny tank, labeled as a mimic, accompanied by a video of a bona fide mimic.

I tried to tell some of the staff about the misidentification, but they weren’t interested in any input and told me to send an email.

The row of pictures above are all mimics. The mimic has a white edge along the arms, while the wonderpus does not. The mimic has white dots going down the length of each arm and a white “v” marking on the body (as does the white-v and the brown mimic, which are in the mimic family). On a wonderpus the pattern of the white markings on the body differ with each individual.

The stripes on the mimic are not defined, while the stripes on a wonderpus are clear-cut. The mimic tends to be larger and more muscular compared to the wonderpus. A mimic can make its stripes disappear and look brown or mottled, while a wonderpus can change its colour tone from yellow / orange through to dark brown / black, but the stripes will always be apparent. If you find a striped octopus eating at a den, it should be a mimic.

Mimics catch their prey and take it back to a hole in the sand to eat, while wonderpus usually eat on the go, though if the hunting is good, they can bring some food back home, tucked into the body like chipmunks tuck acorns in their cheeks. I have sometimes found active mimic holes by the presence of fire worms as they try to hang around in wait and steal food from mimics by bothering them when the octopus is simply trying to enjoy their meal at the relative safety of its home entrance. Mimics often grab crabs too large to get down their hole, so must spend time dismembering their meal above the surface, while I have yet to see a wonderpus unable to get underground, even carrying food.

The top row of pics are all wonderpus. Starting at the bottom-left is the white-v octo and then a web-casting brown mimic. Then a mimic and lastly a young wonderpus.

So I hope that this helps when you next see a striped octopus and are not sure what it is.

Here endeth the the lesson.

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Black Sand Dive Retreat

Kel. Kasawari, Bitung
Lembeh Strait
North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Tel: 62 (0)821-9969-5992
info@blacksanddive.com