BBC Nature has reported on a story about a black-marble jawfish (Stalix cf. histrio) disguising itself among a mimic octopus’ (Thaumoctopus mimicus) tentacles. During a diving trip in Indonesia in July 2011, Godehard Kopp of the University of Gottingen, Germany, filmed an unexpected pairing between the two animals. The black-marble jawfish was seen closely following a mimic octopus as it moved across the sandy bottom. The jawfish had brown-and-white markings similar to the octopus, and was difficult to spot among the many arms. The octopus, for its part, did not seem to notice or care.
Kopp sent the video to Rich Ross and Wetpixel Senior Moderator Luiz Rocha of the California Academy of Sciences, who identified the jawfish species. Since this association had not been recorded before, they published their observations online last month in the scientific journal Coral Reefs. The authors surmise that the jawfish hitches a ride with the octopus for protection, allowing it to venture away from its burrow to look for food; a case of “opportunistic mimicry.”