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

Solely a handful of individuals have noticed the dazzling blanket octopus in the wild, making it one of the rarest sights in the marine world.

The technicolour marine mollusc was noticed final week by reef information and marine biologist Jacinta Shackleton, off the coast of Woman Elliot Island in the Great Barrier Reef .

“Once I first noticed it, I believed it may have been a juvenile fish with lengthy fins, however because it got here nearer, I realised it was a feminine blanket octopus and I had this overwhelming sense of pleasure and pleasure,” she mentioned.

“I saved yelling through my snorkel, ‘it’s a blanket octopus!’ I used to be so excited I used to be discovering it tough to carry my breath to dive down and video it.”

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Blanket octopuses are extraordinarily rare. The primary sighting of a reside male was made 21 years in the past simply 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.

‘Rainbow-like’ blanket octopus off Lady Elliot Island, Queensland.
‘Rainbow-like’ blanket octopus off Woman Elliot Island, Queensland. Composite: Jacinta Shackleton

In the New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, he famous they’re the “most excessive instance of sexual size-dimorphism in a non-microscopic animal”.

Whereas females develop as much as 2 metres in size, the males have solely been seen to develop to about 2.4cm lengthy.

The blanket octopus's 'blanket'
Beware of the blue-bottle stingers the blanket octopus carries. {Photograph}: Jacinta Shackleton

Males additionally don’t develop the blanket octopus’s iridescent “blanket” that makes the species so alluring.

For the females that do develop it, the show will be shed to elude predators.

The intense distinction between the sexes is assumed to have developed as a result of of the blanket octopus’s distinctive behavior of carrying blue-bottle stingers for self-defence.

Shackleton mentioned she believes there have solely been three sightings of the octopus in the space earlier than hers. It typically spends its lifecycle in the open ocean so it’s much more uncommon to see one on the reef.

Shackleton mentioned she feels fortunate to have been in the water at the proper time to seize imaginative and prescient of the spectacular species.

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

“Seeing one in actual life is indescribable, I used to be so captivated by its actions, it was as if it was dancing through the water with a flowing cape. The colourful colors are simply so unimaginable, you possibly can’t take your eyes off it.

“I’ve actually by no means seen something prefer it earlier than and don’t assume I ever will once more in my life.”

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