The little we know about the hairy octopus comes from the reports of divers, who are keen to share their sightings of the “holy grail” of octopuses. This species is covered in thin skin flaps that float around it like hair.
The “hair” helps the octopus stay hidden, but it also has size on its side. This octopus species only grows to about the size of a golf ball!
This octopus’ hair-like growths help it hide in plain sight as it pretends to be drifting seaweed!
Sceintific name TBOD: To Be Officially Described!
How many octopus species are there? We tend to say there are around 300 species, but scientific exploration, with the help of community scientists, is discovering more undescribed species!
OctoNation members, SCUBA professionals, and underwater photographers are helping uncover the mysteries of the Hairy octopus! Information for this octopus profile was made possible by community scientists!
The Hairy octopus has been reported by divers to have a total length of 2-5 cm (up to 2 inches!) with an arm length from 3-10 cm (1-4 inches) making it very difficult to spot!
Time for more scientific exploration. The lifespan of the hairy octopus is unknown!
Most sightings of the Hairy octopus have been reported in the Lembeh strait off North Sulawesi, Indonesia. However, it has also been reported in Bali, Indonesia and recently spotted (March 28, 2020) for the first time in the waters of Okinawa, Japan!
The Hairy octopus has been observed inhabiting areas with fine rubble (shells, small rocks, broken coral), seagrass, and volcanic black sand with algae patches at depths between 8 – 20 m (26-65 ft).
The diet of the Hairy octopus is unknown, but like other octopus, it’s likely a carnivore.
The Hairy octopus can range in color from white to cream to brown to red, either with or without patterns or spots. Many divers have reported the colors around the eye to be paler than its body. Its most distinguishing feature is the long “hairy” skin flaps covering its entire body and arms! This octopus has been easily mistaken as a tuft of algae floating across the seafloor or an orangutan crab (Achaeus japonicus). The Hairy octopus can also be confused with the Algae octopus (Abdopus aculeatus), which also inhabits Indonesian waters.
First mention of the hairy octopus was in the early 2000’s. This elusive fur ball was considered the holy grail for SCUBA divers and they were eager to find this irresistible puffball of cuteness.
What’s it like to spot such a rare find on a dive? Let’s find out from two divers, Sonja Geier and Brandon Hannan!
It was Sonja’s birthday trip to Lembeh when she saw her first Hairy octopus. “It was towards the end of the dive when the guide from another group called us to around 25 m. He knew I’d never seen a Hairy octopus, so imagine how happy I was! Once spotted, the Hairy octopus usually starts moving around and you can see the whole thing pulsating and changing colors from white to red or brown. To me, it’s purely one of the cutest critters out there!”
Since that first sighting, Sonja was eager to see the Hairy octopus again!
“One of the dive guides mentioned before the dive that he saw a Hairy octopus at the exact same site a few days before. I said if he finds it again, I’d give him a tip, and of course he did! Most of our guides [at NAD Lembeh] with more than 100 years of combined experience diving in Lembeh all say the Hairy octopus usually stay around the same habitat for a couple of days and can be observed around the same time of the day.”
Sonja has observed the Hairy octopus eight times!
For Brandon, it was a check off his bucket list.
“When I first found the Hairy octopus it was just floating across the rocky rubble and initially looked like a piece of algae or some plant matter. When I looked at the octopus closer, I noticed around the eye it would radiate pale colors pulsating from the orifice of his eye just to the outside of his eyes only. As I watched the Hairy octopus move, it seemed to only move to the next piece of coral once the surge was pulling in the direction that it was going. The whole area is covered with broken pieces of coral and some seagrass. The hairy octopus would stay near the rubble only.”
When looking for this tiny camouflaged critter, Brandon suggests moving very slow and searching everything that looks like algae!
“The best suggestion I could make is to go really slow when looking for this species. When looking for the Hairy octopus be sure to check everything that looks like a piece of algae or ball of hair. The species does not move much, so it can easily be missed. When I first found the Hairy octopus to say I was excited would be an understatement, I was so happy to finally check this species off my bucket list.”
Warren is the Founder of OctoNation, a nonprofit organization that works to inspire the wonder of the ocean by educating the world about octopuses. As a professional community building strategist, Warren has collaborated with hundreds of underwater photographers, artists, scientists, and aquarists to create educational resources for both children and adults.
OctoNation is a highly engaged community where people can interact, learn and be enamored by the ocean through the lens of the octopus. Jacque Cousteau said it best, “People protect what they love.” OctoNation’s 600,000+ members wholeheartedly agree! Want to get involved? Email Hello@OctoNation.com