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Deimatic Behavior – An Octopus’s Great Defense

Good behavior, bad behavior…deimatic behavior!! Dei-ma-what? Deimatic behavior is when an animal attempts to startle a predator to avoid getting eaten. It is commonly used by animals that lack a strong defense—like a squishy octopus! Take a deep dive and discover how different cephalopods demonstrate deimatic behavior.

Did you know the word deimatic originates from the Greek δειματόω (deimatόo) which means “to frighten”?

As humans, when faced with a foe, we might puff out our chest to look larger than we are or frantically wave our arms around and shout to scare someone away.

That’s about the extent of what a human has to display for deimatic behavior.

Animals far surpass us in this department with:

  • Crafty camouflages
  • Bright colorings
  • Spots on their body that look like eyes
  • The ability to quickly make their body look much larger than it is

Naturally, cephalopods have evolved some nifty ways to startle, frighten, and bluff their way out of a situation when they are met with a predator!

⚡️Why is this octopus flashing?👇⁣In situations where an octopus is attempting to defend itself, it will either shoot ink, jet away, or display deimatic behavior. ⁣⁣Deimatic behavior attempts to frighten predators and is commonly used by animals that lack a strong defense. ⁣⁣In this instance the octopus is hoping it can either scare off or momentarily distract the camera person. ⁣⁣When you see these color displays, now you can explain to your friends what’s going on! ⁣⁣Deimatic is a Greek word that means “to frighten”⁣⁣🎥 video by @angiebiggs12 ⁣

Posted by Octonation – The Largest Octopus Fan Club on Saturday, October 6, 2018
By: Angie Biggs

How Does A Cephalopod Defend Its Self?

When a cephalopod is attempting to defend itself, it can either:

  • Shoot ink
  • Jet away
  • Display deimatic behavior

Or, a combination of all these!

While inking and jetting away helps to startle a predator and escape, it takes A LOT of energy! Ink is expensive (energy-wise) to make and jet propulsion to get away can be so intense that it reduces the amount of oxygen in a cephalopod’s tissues.

Even the building up of water pressure inside their mantle can be high enough to stop an octopuses heart… which is why they have less energy costly options available to them.

The most common form of deimatic behavior is rapidly changing color and spreading out the webbing between their arms to appear big and scary.

Flashing, Flickering, Shimmering, Pulsing, Waving, Strobing- A Kind Of Defense!

No, I’m not describing the fantastic light show at a popular nightclub, but the skin of a cephalopod of course!

Octopus, squid, and cuttlefish have complex skin with chromatophores, leucophores, and iridophores that allow them to become any type of flashing billboard they desire in seconds.

If you’re about to sit down to eat a dish of pasta and all of a sudden it turns blue and starts flashing red, you would probably fall backward in your chair as you shove away from the table. Either way, you would think twice about eating it.

Let’s look at some creative ways that different cephalopods display their deimatic (or threat) behaviors!

This Day octopus needs a name, what do you think? FLASH? ⚡️⁣Chromatophores in the octopuses skin control orange and brown color changes. Within these cells, there are thousands of tiny sacs of color changing pigments.When the octopus decides to be brown, the brown sacs stretch out to the surface in milliseconds making that color dominant. Iridophores work differently. They have the ability to reflect back different waves of light.Unlike the very fast changes seen in chromatophores, the alteration in iridophores moves slowly, requiring physiological changes cycling through the rainbow from red to orange to yellow to green to blue over a period of about 15 seconds to a minute.And finally, leucophores are white reflectors that add luminosity and contrast to an octopuses overall display.🎥 video by: @raymaxhoweOH HEY New Members! We LOVE that you're here!Here are some quick questions for you as ya get settled in…1. Where in the world are you joining us from?1. When did your fascination for octopus begin?1. Feel free to share your favorite octopus photos/art down below1. Have any friends who share your love for octopus? Feel free to invite them! They won't be automatically added to the group– it'll ask them if they're interested in checking us out!Chat soon Nation!Without further ado, here are the new members!Marian Ferro,Jack Burton,Frank Dukes,Mariah Thea Miller,Joshua Childs,Ashlie Bubb,Bethany Cheyenne,Dyrinda Tyson,Judi McDonald,Theresa Wright,Elizabeth Meade,Old//Haunts//Collective,Natalie Olvera,Jon Vinette,Karen Switzer,Clint Wolf,Sara Custer,Jessica Janda,Heidi Sander,Quinton Fancher,Jennifer Ragio,Gogo Gorki,Octavia B Kane,Lori Antis Wade,Derek Richardson,Felicia Dupree,Ollie Tietje,David Ryan,Jessica Aarons,Paul J Miller,Fred Fisher,Lynlee Wilkins,Shannon Hope Rich,Kathy Aguilar,Dylan Swallow,Michael Petrosky Flores,Virgie Davis,Amy Greufe,Myla Parry,Zoe Hunt,Cheryl McClain,Josh Barr,Frances Tona,Kahler Lueth,Jesse Gay,Sara Greyfox,Rusty Southworth,Graham Brutsch-Mason,Chad Whitley,Melissa Rhae,Nicki Harmon,Sarah Donovan,Cheryl Crockett Reinhard,Grady Newman,Loren Young,Erin Bruce,Leon Pierce,DC Smith,Tevin Singh,Baldy Edwards,Reese Cooper,Dillon Sprague,Jennifer Anchia Hurtado,Danielle Ruley,Alice Johnson,Riley Goodwin,Betty Wright,Holly Sherwin,Kristi Shideler,Jim Carroll,Theresa Nagy Phillmon,Rod Hamlet,Shena O'Lone,Branden W Halverson,Denise Gross,Anne McGlynn,Maura Beth Kennedy,方昶崴,Grace Bowen,Josh Hixon,Isabelle Kirch,Natasha Schrey,Jeanne Vanderpool,Trish Merritt,Alex Oren,Melissa Armenta,Austin Bol,Derek Manes,Jane Stefani Kasdan,Joseph Miller,Chrissy Miller Glatzmaier,Calvin Brown,Erik Mills,Jessie M Stull,Adri Leigh,Wickyd DeVille,Seleneo Westworld,Vargas Lorena,Judy Miller,Heidi L Lutz,Logan Campedelli,Ivy Carpe,Susan Konen Kubik,Laura Elizabeth,Patti Cadra,Rachael Andersen,Carolina Lopez,Isabel Bellido,Ashley Alexis,Svitlana Maslova,Sylvia Skinderowicz,Rachel Kouris,Jess Mooney,Valentina Giordano,Dancin Angie,Kristen McIntire,Breanna Gunn,Douglas Brewer,Gemma Pegler,Dave Jovick,Walter Newell,Genevieve Seaman,Annette Bahos,Robbin Tackwood-Corbett,Deanna Cirillo,Cindy Marcil-Bloom,Lora Story Bolman,Christina Kratky,Sienna Heard,Bianca Belli,Michael Reedy,Samantha Rose,Becky Mcculloch,Linsy Kay Horn,Jordan Bright,Josiah Bates,Moe Graves,Victor Villa,Indica Michelle Bicknell,Karen Lamb,Christopher Holmes,Tea Alex,Amanda Franklin,Kristi-Ann Henderson,Monica Almaguer,Charlene McCord,Denise De Sante Kaplan,Kaylin Rae Wade,Donna Rochat-Vasquez,Kimberly Eastham,Kristi Kroll,Michael Livingthedream Koslowski,Alicia Esplund,Amber Moss,Laura Reyes,Emma Sample,Summer Stone,Deborah Berk,Kristie Silha,Sara Lilley,Mike Dock,Amy Bondurant,Lynn Curry,Roger Murphree,Jennifer Darling,Skim LaBroad Odorizzi,Keith Tackett,Kendra Nicole Adams,AshleyApril Siviglia,Pat M Quinn,Breanne Baker,Sensei-Anthony Fontana,Billy Tibbetts,David Blank,Kaelyn Shea,Heather Williams,Karen Healy,Christopher Rnbw-boy McKinney,Melanie Patrick,Christopher Green,Justin W Hintz,Vanessa Parrott Roskam,Wayne Shank,Courtney Turner,Ronda Burke,Monica Evel Williams,Harold E. 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Posted by Octonation – The Largest Octopus Fan Club on Friday, December 25, 2020
By: Raymond Howe

Female Blanket Octopus (Tremoctopus)

The Female Blanket Octopus has stunning iridescent webbing between 4 of their arms making them appear much bigger than they actually are. These octopuses are already a decent size reaching up to 6.6 feet (2 meters) in length, but when faced with a hungry tuna, sailfish, or shark, it’s helpful to look like something they wouldn’t be able to fit into their mouths.

The female’s fabulous webbing also contains eye spots which could aid in making predators think twice about attacking.

Southern Blue-Ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena maculosa)

Normally plodding around the reef wearing its inconspicuous reddish-brown coloring, the Blue-Ringed Octopus will turn yellow and flash its bright blue rings if it feels threatened. This lets predators know to stay away.

What the Blue-Ringed Octopus has that many others don’t is the ability to follow through on their flashy threat. Their bite is extremely venomous loaded with a neurotoxin that is capable of causing fatal paralysis. This includes humans!

If you ever see blue rings on a tiny octopus, make sure you steer clear. While not aggressive, if they do land a fatal bite, they carry enough toxin to kill 26 adult humans.

Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus)

If there was a champion of deimatic behavior, the Mimic Octopus would be the winner!

Like almost all octopuses, they have the wonderful ability to change their skin color through tiny pigment sacs all over their body called chromatophores. Changing in the blink of an eye, the Mimic Octopus can recreate itself into 15 (and possibly many more) venomous creatures that live in their surroundings.

mimic octopus imitating sea snake

For example, to simulate the Banded Sea Snake, the Mimic Octopus tucks itself into the sand or a hole while sticking 2 of its arms out in opposite directions. It displays black and white bands like that of the sea snake while also impersonating its undulating movements.

This successfully scares off Damselfish who might take a chunk out of a yummy Mimic Octopus but wouldn’t dare try to tangle with a sea snake.

GIF by OctoNation® The Largest Octopus Fan Club! - Find & Share on GIPHY
By: Ocean Vision

Common Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis)

The Common Cuttlefish uses three classic deimatic displays when faced with a predator.

  1. They flatten their bodies.
  2. Use their handy dandy chromatophores to make their skin pale.
  3. And, produce a pair of black eye spots.

While insects react the same way to every predator, cuttlefish can discriminate between large predators and species and then choose how they want to respond.

How is this possible? They’re smart!

Cuttlefish have one of the largest brain-to-body ratios of any invertebrate allowing them to process their surroundings in thoughtful ways. One way they put that big brain to work is to help them determine how big they need to go with their deimatic demonstrations.

Camouflaging Cuttlefish in Australia!

Rate this camouflage from 1-10!🎥: Maeve Plouffe🍃 Watch as this cuttlefish moves back and forth in the water column to mimic the movement, coloration, and texture of the leaves.👾 ⁣Cuttlefish have the highest DPI of any cephalopod. Which means they have more chromatophores per square inch on their skin than ANY squid or octopus. It’s almost like having a TV screen as skin! 🤯⁣ ⁣⁣🔄 The Cuttlefish has a fin around their body resembling a short, color-changing skirt. Their muscular fin undulates & can maneuver the cuttlefish in nearly any direction: backward, forward, even in circles.💨 When needing to make a quick getaway, cuttlefish morph their tentacles, arms, & body into a sleek looking car-shape and use jet-propulsion to blast away.⁣⁣↕️ Another quick fact while we have your attention, Cuttlefish have the CraZy ability to control their buoyancy by adjusting the levels of gas in their cuttlebone, a porous internal shell- that's how they float so effortlessly in the water. ⁣Caption from the From the videographer @maeveplouffe“Cephalopod camouflage never ceases to amaze me! 😍Cephalopods have the remarkable ability to alter both the colour and texture of their skin to blend seamlessly with their surrounding habitat. Under the skin, chromatophores contain pigment sacs, while iridophores and leucophores reflect and scatter light. The skin also has a muscular-hydrostatic system which raises papillae to make it appear bumpy or textured. Perhaps even more amazing is how quickly this all takes place. I managed to capture the exact moment that this cuttlefish morphed from camouflaging against seagrass, to being smooth and streamlined. I love how you can see all of these mechanisms interact to completely transform the animal. 🌊” ⁣🤔 Which fact did you find the most surprising Nation? Let us know below! ⁣😍 We hope you have a new appreciation for these squishy lightening rods ⁣#OctoNation #Scuba #cephalopod #discoverocean #diving #NationalGeographic #AnimalPlanet #oceanconservation #NatGeoWild #theellenshow #tidepools #blueplanet #uwphotography #underwaterphotography #UWMacro #divinglife #MissionBlue #hopespots #cuttlefish #australia

Posted by Octonation – The Largest Octopus Fan Club on Monday, October 5, 2020
By: Maeve Plouffe

So, What’s The Ultimate Goal With An Octopus’ Deimatic Behavior?

The ultimate goal of all these weird and wonderful displays of deimatic behavior is to shock and scare predators just long enough to give a cephalopod enough time to get away unscathed and live to see another day.

Pretty cool, right?

If you want to educate yourself some more about all sorts of different cephalopods, take a look at our encyclopedia. Or, what we call it, our Octopedia!

Connect with other octopus lovers via the OctoNation Facebook group, OctopusFanClub.com! Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with the conservation, education, and ongoing research of cephalopods.



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