‘Dancing Across the Water’: A rare sighting of an octopus in the Great Barrier Reef | Marine life

Only a few people have spotted the dazzling octopus in the wild, making it one of the rarest sights in the marine world.

The elaborately colored marine mollusk was spotted last week by reef guide and marine biologist Jacinta Shackleton, off the coast of Lady Elliot’s Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

“When I first saw it, I thought it could be a small fish with long fins, but as I got closer, I realized it was a female blanket octopus and I had this overwhelming feeling of exhilaration and excitement,” she said.

“I kept screaming through my breathing tube, ‘It’s an octopus blanket! “I was so excited because I found it hard to hold my breath for diving and shooting the video.”

Blanket octopuses are extremely rare. The first sighting of a living male was made 21 years ago north of the Great Barrier Reef in the reef by Dr Julian Finn, Senior Curator of Marine Invertebrates at Museums Victoria, and colleagues.

A rainbow-like octopus off Lady Elliot Island, Queensland. Compound: Jacinta Shackleton

In the New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, he noted that it is “the most extreme example of sexual dimorphism in a non-microscopic animal”.

While females are up to 2 meters long, only males are seen growing to about 2.4 centimeters.

octopus blanket
Beware of the blue stings carried by the octopus. Photography: Jacinta Shackleton

Males also do not develop the iridescent octopus “blanket” that makes the species so attractive.

For females that develop it, the show can be eliminated to evade predators.

The extreme difference between the sexes is believed to have arisen due to the octopus’ unique habit of carrying blue bottle needles for self-defense.

Shackleton said she believes there were only three octopus sightings in the area before she was seen. They generally spend their life cycle in the open ocean, so it is unusual to see one on a reef.

Shackleton said she feels lucky to be in the water in time to catch a view of the amazing species.

This isn’t Shackleton’s first unusual sighting. I’ve also encountered a rare ornate eagle ray and a rare Melanie manta ray, but she says the all-encompassing octopus “must be one of my all-time favorite reef experiences.”

“Seeing one in real life is indescribable, I was so fascinated by their movements, as if they were dancing in the water with a flowing cloak. The vibrant colors are incredible, you can’t take your eyes off them.”

“I’ve really never seen anything like this before and don’t think I’ll ever do it again in my life.”

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