American Oceans

Ever Wonder How the Octopus Changes its Color?

Octopuses are interesting creatures known for their intelligence and camouflaging abilities. Specifically, octopuses are able to change color to hide in the presence of danger.

octopus camouflaging and changes its color to hide

But how does an octopus change color? Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating characteristic!

The Secret

Believe it or not, the secret to an octopus changing color is hidden within their skin. More specifically, octopuses have special cells called chromatophores in their skin.

octopus secret skin with special chromatophores cells

Within these cells are sacs that contain a pigment, ranging in color. The sacs can carry pigments that are black, red, yellow, or brown. 

So how does this change the octopus’s color overall? Well, when the muscles around these cells tighten, the pigment sacs expand and are stretched a bit wider. 

This means it is easier to see more pigment on the skin of the octopus. When the muscles relax again, the pigment sacs are no longer stretched and the skin is less pigmented. 

octopus skin see more secret pigment

The sacs are controlled by nerves and muscles, so as you can imagine, it takes quite a bit of energy for these animals to change color. 

In addition to changing color, octopuses can also change their shape and the texture of their skin. This means they are able to look like rocks and even other kinds of animals!

Reasons Octopus Change Color

Now that we know how octopuses change color, let’s talk a little bit about why they change color. As mentioned above, these animals will often change color when they’re in the presence of danger. 

octopus change color when predator is nearby

Oftentimes, this means there is a predator nearby. To avoid being eaten, an octopus will change its color to blend into the background or texture to do the same. 

Though octopuses can expel ink to escape danger, changing color and texture is their greatest form of defense as they do not have any other physical protection.

Specifically, octopuses can be quite vulnerable due to their soft, malleable bodies. Similarly, some octopuses will mimic the appearance of another animal to deter their predator. 

Lastly, some octopuses will change color to stand out. Certain colors and patterns within the animal kingdom signal something dangerous or even poisonous, so some octopuses will warn other animals to not even think about eating them.

Other Masters of Disguise

Though octopuses are unique in many ways, their ability to change color is not specific only to them. Let’s take a look at some other animals that are able to do the same. 

First and foremost, octopuses are cephalopods. Cephalopods include squid, octopuses, cuttlefish, and other animals.

Unsurprisingly, because they are part of the same class, all cephalopods have the ability to change color and texture. 

In addition to cephalopods, other animals that can change color include some amphibians, some lizards, seahorses, and chameleons. 

Overall, it is interesting to learn about the complex process behind an octopus changing its skin color.

However, like many complex processes within our own bodies, octopuses can make this change in just a few minutes! The next time you see an octopus, be sure to appreciate this clever escape plan.

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