American Oceans

What Are the Different Types of Octopus

Octopuses are amazing creatures that have captured the imagination for generations. There are many different kinds of octopus and we are here to give you a glimpse of the most common.

common octopus

While we commonly associate the octopuses with the eight-legged behemoths of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the animals exist across a spectrum. 

However, octopuses come in a variety of sizes. The highly intelligent creatures exist worldwide and at every depth of the ocean.

This article examines the unique and common qualities of some of the 20 most amazing types of octopus that populate the world’s oceans. 

What Is an Octopus?

Octopuses are mollusks with eight tentacles and soft bodies. There are more than 300 documented species, each with two eyes and a beaked mouth. The creatures are often venomous.

isolated octopus swimming in tropical sandy bay

Many varieties evolved the ability to blend into their surroundings. Owing to their flexible bodies, octopi can squeeze into tight spaces. 

Octopi species mature quickly and lead short lives. Many perish after mating. Most species use their ink sacs to defend against predators and pursue prey. 

The Different Species of Octopus

Of the more than 300 octopus species, these 20 are among the most fascinating. 

Mimic Octopus

Scientific Name: Thaumoctopus mimicus

Other Names: Mimicking Miracle Octopus

Size: 2 feet

Distribution: Indo-Pacific

Mimic Octopus

Mimic octopuses are foragers and hunters who primarily dine on small fish and crustaceans. The cephalopods set up house in shallow waters.

As the name suggests, mimic octopuses are skilled actors. The creatures imitate fiercer, venomous animals to scare away threats.

Mimic octopuses mimic lionfish, sea snakes, jellyfish, and zebra soles. However, the octopus’s favorite mimic is the flatfish.

Imitation helps them avoid predators and also to be more effective hunters. Potential food doesn’t suspect them when they’re pretending to be other underwater denizens. Mimic Octopuses eat crustaceans and smaller fish. 

Scientists discovered these octopuses in 1998. The cephalopod has three hearts and lives for nine months. 

Lilliput Longarm Octopus

Scientific Name: Macrotritopus Defilippi

Other Names: Atlantic Longarm Octopus

Size: 9 inches

Distribution: Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian Ocean

Lilliput Longarm Octopus

The lilliput longarm octopus has yellowish-brown skin, allowing it to blend into its surroundings.

The cephalopods prefer to live on sandy floors they can blend into. 

Lilliput longarm octopuses primarily eat crustaceans; the little critters make up 94 percent of the lilliput longarm octopus’s diet. Lilliput longarm octopuses build most of their diet around crabs but round out their menu with mantis shrimp and 6 percent bivalves and worms.

The creatures, discovered in 1851, have a lifespan of about a year.

Large fish and seabirds try to eat them.

Lilliput longarm octopuses are also capable of mimicry. The lilliput longarm octopus imitates flounders’ swimming patterns and tucks its tentacles to resemble seaweed

Caribbean Reef Octopus

Scientific Name: Octopus Briareus

Other Names: N/A

Size: Up to 2 feet

Distribution: Nearctic Region, Neotropical Region, Oceanic Islands, and the Pacific Ocean 

Caribbean Reef Octopus

The Caribbean reef octopus is a nocturnal octopus that hunts at night for crabs, shrimps, lobsters, polychaetes, variety of fish.

The cephalopods are bright green and blue with red-brown specks. These octopuses can change colors to camouflage themselves into different backgrounds and have seven rows of teeth. 

Females lay up to 500 eggs simultaneously; stalks join egg clusters together. The protective mothers stay with their eggs until they hatch, killing any approaching threats. 

The Eggs hatch in 50 to 80 days, more quickly in warmer water. Brand new baby octopuses can already propel themselves and squirt ink. 

The hatchlings grow to 75 percent of their full size in 14 weeks, with male hatchlings achieving sexual maturity in 140 days and females reaching that point in 150 days,

Caribbean reef octopuses disguise themselves as algae and coconut to hide from predators. The creatures are sometimes cannibalistic but not typically aggressive. 

The cephalopods, discovered in 1929, live in tropical regions in shallow waters. They set up house in and around coral reefs which provide shelter and protection.

Sharks, stingrays, and predatory fish eat Caribbean reef octopuses. The creatures live an average of 10 to 12 months.

Mosaic Octopus 

Scientific Name: Abdopus abaculus 

Other Names:  N/A

Size: up to 7 inches

Distribution: West Pacific and Indonesia

Mosaic Octopus 

The mosaic octopus is a daytime cephalopod that lives in reefs and eats small crustaceans like calappid crabs. The creatures are active hunters who use their pointy beaks to penetrate the shells of their dinner.

The mosaic octopus has three mating strategies: mate guarding, transient copulation, and sneaker mating.

Post mating, females retreat to their caves and block the entrance. Over the next few days, the female spawns several festoons, laying thousands of eggs altogether. 

Mosaic octopus mamas stay near their eggs, cleaning and tending them until the baby octopuses hatch. Mothers die briefly after the hatchlings emerge.

The cephalopods, registered in 1997, often participate in bipedal movement. 

Greater Blue-Ringed Octopus

Scientific Name: Hapalochlaena Iunulata

Other Names: N/A

Size: up to 8 inches

Distribution: Indo-West Pacific: Sri Lanka, Philippines, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu

Blue-Ringed Octopus

The greater blue-ringed octopus is one of the world’s most toxic marine creatures. Their venom can lead to blindness, partial paralysis, nausea, and, if not addressed, death.

The cephalopods have flattened heads, short arms, and, as the name suggests, a blue-ring-covered body with yellow skin. Most octopuses typically have around 60 rings.

The octopus rings are aposematic, meaning they indicate the octopus’s toxicity to predators. The cephalopods flash their rings as a warning to anyone who wants to make them dinner. 

The octopuses eat small crabs, shrimps, and small, injured, easily caught fish. They hunt by pouncing and breaking through the tough shells of their prey with their pointy beaks.

The greater blue-ringed octopus’s breeding season depends on geographic region. Females lay between 60 and 100 eggs at a time. The mamas protect their eggs by keeping them beneath their tentacles during incubation, which lasts about 50 days. 

Females do not eat during this period, so dedicated are they to protecting their progeny, and they die from lack of nutrients. The male octopuses die post-mating.

The babies mature quickly and live for around two years.

The octopuses, discovered in 1832, live in temperate waters and flock to reefs and coral. Moray eels, whales, seals, shore, and marine birds threaten them.

Common Octopus

Scientific Name: Octopus Vulgaris 

Other Names: N/A

Size: up to 4.3 feet

Distribution: Worldwide

common octopus

The common octopus is carnivorous and lives from 1 to 2 years.

These cephalopods camouflage themselves to match their surroundings. The common octopus relies on ink sacs as its other major form of defense. The substance obscures a threat’s vision and dulls its sense of smell. The common octopus is also venomous. 

The common octopus is very fast. The creatures have soft bodies that squeeze into impossibly small places and protect them from predators, including whales, big fish, and certain birds. 

These cephalopods are the most intelligent of all invertebrates. 

The common octopus eats crabs, crayfish, and mollusks.

The creatures, never located in polar or subpolar regions, have more than 300 subspecies.  

Female octopuses create a nest with rocks and shells to protect their eggs, which they lay in shallow water.

The mamas lay between 100,000 and 500,000 eggs at a time. Females stay with the eggs once they’re laid.

Mothers do not eat during spawning and incubation, lasting between 4 and 5 months. 

The females repel intruders and usually die briefly after the hatching, having lost about a third of their pre-spawning body weight. 

Giant Pacific Octopus

Scientific Name: Enteroctopus dofleini

Other Names: N/A

Size: up to 16 feet

Distribution: North Pacific, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Russia, Eastern China, Japan, and the Korean Peninsula

Giant Octopus Dofleini

The giant pacific octopus has nine brains: one primary big brain and eight mini brains- the eight mini brains control the tentacles.  

The cephalopods have big, round heads to house all those organs. Their skin is a red-brown hue that shifts and adapts to their environments. 

The giant pacific octopus eats shrimp, crabs, scallops, abalone, cockles, snails, small sharks, clams, lobsters, fish, squid, and other octopi. The cephalopods use their beaks to get through their prey’s tough shells.

Harbor seals, sea otters, sperm whales, and pacific sleeper sharks all feed on the giant pacific octopus. Humans also consume the octopuses.

The octopuses live between three and five years. 

The females only mate once in their lifespan and usually die relatively briefly after their eggs hatch, having foregone eating for the duration of incubation, which takes about six months.

Females lay up to 74,000 eggs in each clutch.

Danish scientists registered the giant octopus in 1857.

Dumbo Octopus

Scientific Name: Grimpoteuthis

Other Names: N/A

Size: 8 inches

Distribution: Worldwide, in temperate or tropical latitudes 

The dumbo octopus, discovered in 1883, resides in the deepest parts of the ocean, from 9800 to 13,000 feet below sea level. 

The creatures eat snails and worms.

The dumbo octopus owes their names to the resemblance they bear to the Disney elephant with the same name.

The adorable octopuses live an average of three to five years.

Other octopuses, sharks, sperm whales, fish, and seals all feast on dumbo octopuses.

The dumbo octopus distinguishes itself from most other octopuses by lacking an ink sack or the ability to change colors to camouflage itself.

Unlike most octopuses, dumbo octopuses are continuous spawners, meaning they have no designated mating season and often carry their eggs in different phases of development. 

Mothers don’t stay with their eggs to defend them; they simply tether laid eggs to deep-sea corals. 

Coconut Octopus

Scientific Name: Amphioctopus marginatus

Other Names: Veined Octopus

Size: 6 inches

Distribution: Western Pacific Ocean

Coconut Octopus

The coconut octopus has darkly colored tentacles with white suckers. Like many octopuses, the creature’s skin allows the cephalopod to blend into its surroundings. 

The cephalopods eat shrimp, crabs, and clams. 

Coconut octopuses differ from others by walking bipedally and using tools like coconut shells for shelter.

The octopuses prefer sandy floors of bays or lagoons and remain at relatively shallow depths.  

They often bury themselves in the sand with only their eyes peaking out.

Females lay about 100,000 eggs and die briefly after reproduction. Males die within weeks of mating; female dies only after the eggs are laid and hatched.

Zoologists discovered the tropical water species in 1964.

The coconut octopus has greater longevity than other small octopus species, living between 3 and 5 years.

Sandbird Octopus

Scientific Name: Octopus Aegina 

Other Names: Marbled Octopus 

Size: up to 11.8 inches

Distribution: Indo-West Pacific coastal region

Zoologists discovered the sandbird octopus in 1849. The creatures set up base in divots and caverns.

Red veins marble the light brown octopuses. This coloration helps the cephalopods blend into their surroundings.

Sandbird octopuses face threats from fishers, as they often feature in indigenous cuisine. 

The octopuses primarily eat crustaceans. The cephalopods are a bit of a mystery; little available information exists about the sandbird octopus. However, we do know the creatures display aggressive behaviors. 

East Pacific Red Octopus

Scientific Name: Octopus rubescens 

Other Names: N/A

Size: 11.8-15.7 inches 

Distribution: Southern Gulf of California to the Gulf of Alaska and the Western Pacific Ocean

pacific red octopus Octopus rubescens

The east pacific red octopus, discovered in 1953, can change its colors; however, its three core shades are dark red, brown, and white. Some octopuses are a combination of all three hues.

The cephalopods eat gastropods, clams, scallops, and crabs. They use their venom to subdue their dinner and pierce through any shells with their beaks.

Unlike most octopus species, the east pacific red octopus chooses its food based on fat solubility versus caloric intake like most predators.

East Pacific red octopuses set up home in kelp forests in sandy, rocky areas. 

The creatures have excellent long and short-term memory.

Their mating periods are late August and early September. The females lay their eggs in a rocky enclosure in the winter. They hide the ova in difficult-to-reach places to protect them from threats.

The mother stays nearby during incubation and dies soon after the babies hatch, as she hasn’t hunted or eaten during the period. Males die immediately after mating.

California Two-Spot Octopus 

Scientific Name: Octopus bimaculoides

Other Names: Bimac

Size: up to 18 inches

Distribution: coastal waters from the intertidal, Eastern Pacific, the Western side of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico 

Two-Spot Octopus

The California two-spot octopus has round blue eyespots on either side of its head. Their usual skin tone consists of shades of gray and yellow; however, the octopuses have very advanced camouflage capabilities.

Mating season can occur anytime; however, warmer summer waters often inspire amorous behavior.

The California two-spot octopus, discovered in 1949, mates once in life and then dies; males die immediately after insemination. 

Females lay about 70,000 eggs in a protected nest. The eggs hatch in between 150 and 210 days, and like many other octopus species, the females die of starvation once the hatchlings emerge. 

The cephalopods live in craggy, rocky regions, reefs, or any recess. The octopuses flock to dens and caves or even abandon pipes for shelter. 

Moray eels, scorpionfish, and humans feed on the California two-spot octopus.

The octopuses have a lifespan of about two years.

Southern Blue-Ringed Octopus 

Scientific Name: Hapalochlaena maculosa

Other Names: N/A

Size: up to 8 inches 

Distribution: Australia’s coast

Southern Blue-Ringed Octopus 

The southern blue-ringed octopus is extremely poisonous but primarily passive and docile.

The calm southern blue-ringed octopus is a bland, mucus shade. Once threatened, the creatures reveal their blue rings. Each cephalopod has about 60 rings that flash at danger.

Southern blue-ringed octopuses, discovered in 1929, look for ample protection in their residences. They set up shop in crevices and slivers of reefs.

These octopuses eat lobsters, crabs, shrimp, shellfish, and smaller fish species. Their venom is their primary hunting tool.

The southern blue-ringed octopus’s life span is seven months. The creatures reach sexual maturity at four months and dedicate the remaining half of their lives to breeding.

Unlike most octopus species, the females initiate mating, then carry their eggs with them. Mothers seldom move during the incubation period. 

Predators include eels, birds, and fish; however, the southern blue-ringed octopus’s potent venom makes them a difficult meal to savor. 

Atlantic Pygmy Octopus

Scientific Name: Octopus joubini

Other Names: Small-Egg Caribbean Pygmy Octopus, Dwarf Octopus  

Size: up to 3.5 inches 

Distribution: Atlantic Ocean, concentrated in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean

Pygmy Octopus

The Atlantic pygmy octopus owes its name to its diminutive size. 

Discovered in 1929, the reddish-orange octopuses use ink sacs and camouflage to escape danger. However, the Atlantic Pygmy Octopus also cleverly evades capture by hiding in cans or shells and creating lids with sand.

The creatures do best in warm waters and seek sheltered areas. These small octopuses often hide in discarded soda cans or other enclosed debris. 

Atlantic pygmy octopuses breed between March and June and live between 6 and 12 months.

The octopuses are carnivorous and depend on clams and small crustaceans for sustenance. When available, they enjoy the occasional snail.

Despite their tiny sizes, the Atlantic pygmy octopus faces the greatest danger from pollution ruining their habitats. 

Algae Octopus

Scientific Name: Abdopus aculeatus 

Other Names: The only land octopus

Size: 9.8 inches

Distribution: Intertidal zones in the Indonesian, Philippine, and Northern Australian coasts

Algae Octopus

The algae octopus distinguishes itself from other species by travailing on land. The creatures ambulate on dry surfaces while they hunt crabs in different tidepools.

Algae octopus, discovered in 1834, build their homes in mossy areas and caves, where their coloration provides ample camouflage. 

These octopuses have the most elaborate and complex mating habits of any species. The males and females remain in their own dens throughout the process. Both sexes are promiscuous.

Females eventually close up their dens and lay thousands of eggs. Mothers remain with the eggs until the babies hatch, dying briefly thereafter. 

Blanket Octopus

Scientific Name: Tremoctopus

Other Names: N/A

Size: females grow up to six feet, and males grow up to one inch. 

Distribution: Australian Great Barrier Reef, in the Gulf of Mexico, and in both the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean

Blanket Octopus

Female blanket octopuses are much larger than males. The father’s inseminating tentacle comes off during mating, and the mother keeps it with her. 

Mothers carry their eggs with them until the babies hatch. Each blanket octopus lays up to 100,00 eggs.

Blanket octopuses are lethal; they often rip the tentacles from a Portuguese man o’ war and use the venom within to attack or defend. 

The creatures make their homes in coral reefs, which provide shelter and protection from the large fish and whales who want to feast on them.

The blanket octopus, discovered in 1830, lives three to five years. 

Southern Keeled Octopus

Scientific Name: Octopus Berrima

Other Names: N/A

Size: up to 14 inches 

Distribution: Native Australia 

Southern Keeled Octopus

Southern keeled octopuses live in shallow waters. The creatures hide in sand, rocks, and rubbish for protection.

The octopuses are cream to light brown in color. 

The southern keeled octopus, discovered in 1992, eats crabs and crustaceans. They hunt at night. 

The female octopuses lay large eggs they tether to rocks. Males perform displays to attract their mates. 

Star-Sucker Pygmy Octopus

Scientific Name: Octopus wolfi

Other Names: Wolfi

Size: less than 1 inch

Distribution: Indo-Pacific, Red Sea to Tahiti

Star-Sucker Pygmy Octopus

The star-sucker pygmy octopus is the smallest discovered octopus so far. 

The tiny creatures live in shallow water, where males perform for female partners and then die shortly after mating. Females die briefly after the babies hatch. 

Star-sucker pygmy octopuses eat small crustaceans, mollusks, and nanoplankton.

Their average lifespan is one year. 

Unusual for octopuses, the wolfi, discovered in 1913, lays multiple clutches of eggs. The females lay two to three clutches of eggs, one after another, but after the final hatching, she perishes. The ability to lay multiple egg clutches keeps the creature’s population secure. 

Capricorn Octopus

Scientific Name: Callistoctopus Alpheus

Other Names: Capricorn Night Octopus, Poulpe Capricorne, Krake, Pulpo, Pulpo Capricornio

Size: 3.14 inch

Distribution: Australia

Capricorn octopuses are nocturnal hunters. The creatures hunt at night to edge out the competition, claiming more food for themselves. 

The tiny, reddish-brown octopuses live in caves, dens, and coral reefs.  

The Capricorn octopus was first documented in 1993. The creatures die briefly after mating. 

Humans often hunt Capricorn octopuses for consumption. There isn’t an abundance of information available about these creatures. 

Seven-Arm Octopus

Scientific Name: Haliphron Atlantic

Other Names: N/A

Size: Up to 11 feet

Distribution: Pacific and Atlantic Oceans

The seven-arm octopus has eight tentacles. However, the males’ eighth arm, used for reproduction-curls up beneath the creatures’ eyes, evading notice.

The creatures are one of the two largest octopus species, which allows them to enjoy a broader menu than others. While the seven-arm octopus eats the same crustaceans and bivalves other species devour, they also feast on larger fish.

The octopuses, discovered in 1861, live an average of two years. The creatures are rare and seldom sighted. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Answering every question about octopuses would take a novel, but we address some of the most frequently asked queries below.

Are there extinct types of octopus?

Yes, octopuses have been around for a very long time, and keuppia and styletoctopus are both extinct octopus genuses.

What is the average lifespan of octopuses?

There are more than 250 octopus varieties, each with a unique lifespan; however, few live past two years.

Can octopuses use tools?

Octopuses are very intelligent, and some species do use tools to hide in or to create shelters.

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