The mimic octopus and the wonderpus are favorites of every muck diver and underwater photographer but which is which?

When I saw one of them for the first time, a wonderpus in Dumaguete, I had no idea which one it was. I had only seen photos of them before and knew from there that the eyes have a very specific shape and look similar. At that point I had no idea which body parts to pay attention to.

There are some features to easily tell them apart.
The mimic octopus is known for its ability to imitate objects or animals from its surroundings like flounder, jelly fish, sting ray, sea snake, crab, lionfish or just a rock/coral. In it’s non-mimicking form, however, it does look similar to the wonderpus.

The scientific name is Wonderpus photogenicus – clearly they look wonderful on photos. At least if they sit still.

Both of them prefer to live on sandy/mucky grounds in shallow waters and can be found primarily in Indonesia and the Philippines. The best places to find them are Lembeh, Alor, Ambon, Bali (Indonesia), Dumaguete, Anilao (Philippines) and Mabul (Malaysia).

So how can you tell them apart?

 

Time of the day

First of all their activity patterns differentiate. Basically if you find one during the day the chances are good it is a mimic octopus and if you find it on a night dive it possibly is a wonderpus.

 

Mimicking

The wonderpus will always look about the same even when it is moving around or trying to hide away in the sandy ground. When the mimic octopus feels threatened you will most probably see it imitating a flounder to escape the weird bubbly things producing light flashes (divers).

Mimic octopus

  • mantle: beige and dark brown without clear boarder in between and a white triangle on its “nose” (posterior mantle)
  • eyes: On short stalks, almost round
  • arms: White border at the base of the suckers

Wonderpus

  • mantle: white markings on yellow-brown background with clear borders
  • eyes: On elongated stalks with horizontal white lines close to the eyes
  • arms: Well defined bars, no white boarder

Do you think you will be able to tell them apart during your next dive? Hopefully, but even if not, they both look absolutely stunning and you anyway want to take a photo or even better a video to document their fascinating movement or the mimic octopus mimicking something.

 

Are you looking at different features to tell them apart? Let me know in the comment section below