Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

‘Dancing through the water’: rare sighting of blanket octopus in Great Barrier Reef

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

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

“When I first saw it I thought it could be a young fish with long fins, but when it got closer I realized it was a female blanket octopus and I had an overwhelming sense of joy and excitement,” he said. she.

“I kept yelling through my snorkel, ‘It’s a blanket octopus!’ I was so excited that I found it hard to hold my breath to dive down and film it.”

Blanket octopuses are extremely rare. The first sighting of a live male was made 21 years ago just north of the Great Barrier Reef in the Ribbon Reefs by Dr. Julian Finn, a senior curator of marine invertebrates at Museums Victoria, and colleagues.

Rare sighting of ‘rainbow-like’ blanket octopus off Lady Elliot Island, Queensland Photo: Jacinta Shackleton

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

While females grow up to 2 meters in length, the males have been observed to only grow to about 2.4 cm in length.

Blanket octopus blanket
Watch out for the stingers from the blue bottle that the blanket octopus is carrying. Photo: Jacinta Shackleton

Males also fail to develop the iridescent octopus “blanket” that makes the species so attractive.

For the females that do develop it, the screen can be shed to evade predators.

The extreme difference between the sexes is thought to have arisen due to the blanket octopus’s unique habit of wearing blue bottle stingers for self-defense.

Shackleton said she believes there have been only three sightings of the octopus in the area before her. It generally spends its life cycle in the open ocean, so it’s even more unusual to see one on the reef.

Shackleton said she is lucky to have been in the water at the right time to capture the spectacular species.

This isn’t Shackleton’s first extraordinary sighting. She’s also encountered a rare ornate eagle ray and a rare melanistic manta ray, but says the blanket octopus “has got to be one of my all-time favorite reef experiences.”

“To see one in real life is indescribable, I was so fascinated by his movements, it was like he was dancing through the water with a flowing cape. The vibrant colors are so incredible you can’t take your eyes off them.

“I’ve really never seen anything like it and I don’t think I ever will in my life.”