Octopus – Masters of Camouflage

Octopus, Squids and Cuttlefish are among the few marine creatures that can camouflage themselves by completely changing the feel and color of their skin.

Also known as the chameleon of the sea, Cephalopods (the scientific name for mollusks with arms attached to their heads) pose the ability to change the color and texture of their skin to either match their surroundings or make them stand out to other underwater animals.

Here’s how it works:

Underneath their skin, they have special cells that are filled with different colors, called chromatophores. These small balloon-like elastic sacs contain a pigment that can vary from black, brown, orange, red to yellow. 

By using a network of finely controlled muscles, cephalopods can either stretch or contract these color-changing cells, to make them appear either brighter or darker. When the sacs are for example stretched the color appears brighter, as the color pigments are spaced out on a bigger surface. The opposite effect occurs when the cells are in a contracted or relaxed state. 

But their camouflage features don’t end here. Besides chromatophores, some cephalopods also have other cells, which give them the ability to change the surface texture of their skin to mimic the texture of rocks, corals or other nearby objects. This added layer of small reflecting plates (called papillae) can create fine bumps, high ridges or even spikey horns that they can deploy to match their surroundings. 

The reasons why they do this include:

  • to hide and make themselves invisible to predators
  • to sneak up and hunt possible prey
  • or as means of communication to either 
    – warn others with bright colours to stay away (a great example of this would be the extremely venomous blue-ringed octopus) or
    – attract the attention of females for reproduction

Fun Fact: The Mimic Octopus has a unique way of camouflaging. Rather than blending in with the seafloor, it changes its skin color and how it moves its tentacles to take on the shape of other sea creatures. It has been known to impersonate more than 15 different marine species, including flounders, lionfish, and sea snakes.

To learn more about our oceans and their fascinating inhabitants, make sure to check out previous articles.

5 Reasons Why We Need to Protect Coral Reefs

Known as the ‘Rainforest of the Ocean’, Coral Reefs can be found all over the globe. Not only are they beautiful to look at, with their diversity in vibrant colors and textures, but they are also extremely important to keep the ocean’s ecosystem in check. 

Unfortunately, in a recent development, coral reefs are deteriorating and dying at an alarming rate due to human and natural pressures that range from overfishing and human destruction to ocean acidification and climate change. 

Here are 5 reasons why we need Coral Reefs and should therefore protect them:

1. Biodiversity

Coral Reefs are home to more than a  ¼ of all marine animals on the planet. Thousands of species can be found living on one reef only and a greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms.

2. Coastal Protection

With their massive formations between the surface and the first few dozen meters of depth, coral reefs form a protective barrier that absorbs the elements coming from the open sea. They absorb wave energy and contribute to the reduction of coastal erosion and therefore reduce damage in the event of storms, hurricanes and other natural disasters. This way, they protect both the ecosystems between the reefs and the coasts, as well as civilization along the coast. Humans have even started to recreate this effective strategy by immersing concrete structures along some of our more fragile coastlines, as some islands would no longer exist without this safety measure.

3. Economy

Millions of people around the world depend on reefs for food, protection, and employment. Especially the tourism sector and local economies benefit from intact Coral Reefs, as visitors from all over the world come to admire their reefs by snorkeling or scuba diving to explore them. If managed sustainably, respectfully meaning handling reefs by limiting the destruction and pollution-induced by this same tourism, especially when it comes to mass tourism, can provide a sustainable income source for coastal communities in developing countries.

4. MEDICinal Research

Coral organisms and their defense adaptabilities are of great interest in the search for treatments for certain cancers or the aging of cells. Since, so far, only a small fraction of organisms have been sampled, analyzed, and tested, the potential for new pharmaceutical discoveries is enormous.

5. Food resource

Worldwide, coral reefs play a vital role in providing food for more than 500 million people living on or near the coast. Coral reefs provide about 10% of the fish caught worldwide. But this figure rises to 20-25% in developing countries, and 70-90% in Southeast Asian countries.


WHAT CAN WE DO TO PROTECT CORALS ?

Now that we know plenty of reasons why we should protect coral reefs, let’s take a quick look at what we can do to help to preserve them.

There are plenty of lifestyle choices in our everyday life that would, in the long run, help the overall environment, coral reefs included.

Most important of all:  Reducing our waste, especially reducing our use of single-use plastic. Proper disposal of trash, choosing more environmentally friendly means of transportation, saving energy and water in ours home, help to limit our impact on the environment. 

As a diver or watersports fan remember to practice safe and responsible diving and snorkeling. Avoid touching reefs or anchoring a boat on a reef. This is very likely to damage or even kill the delicate coral. 

Also, check if your sunscreen is coral-safe. Some ingredients in regular sunscreen can be harmful or even toxic to corals. Or just avoid using a lot of sunscreen by protecting your skin with a rashguard or long-sleeved shirt.

If you share our fascination for the ocean and want to know more about marine life, scuba diving, underwater photography, and much more, check out other articles on our website.