Octopuses are the magicians of the sea. These 8-armed escape artists have been known to mimic sea snakes, open closed jars from the inside, and use coconut shells as makeshift shelters — all of which are impressive tricks.
Then there’s the southern sand octopus. Now you see it, now you don’t:
Scientists at the University of Melbourne first spotted this unusual behavior during a night dive in Port Philip Bay, Australia, in 2008. According to New Scientist, after shining a light on a southern sand octopus, the frightened specimen began to shoot jets of water into the sand below, creating a pit of quicksand into which it buried its entire body.
According to recently published research, this is the first time a cephalopod has been observed forming a complete burrow beneath the sand.
“It actually was a pocket – like a space that the octopus could sit within,” Jasper Montana of the University of Melbourne told New Scientist. “So it was a true burrow.”
While it sounds simple in theory, the process of creating the burrow is quite complex, requiring the octopus to use its arms to create a “chimney” to breathe through and solidify the walls of the chamber with a layer of mucus.
Or, as the scientists simply put it, “advanced sand-fluidisation and adhesive mucus for sediment manipulation.”
This subterranean burrowing is thought to be another form of protection from predators, especially since the southern sand octopus is lacking the camouflage abilities other octopuses have.
“This is another amazing example of how octopuses continue to surprise us with their intelligence — and ingenuity,” Katherine Harmon Courage, author of the book Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature In the Sea, told The Huffington Post in an email. “To find an octopus that builds a custom subterranean den in the sand (even if it’s made partially out of mucus!) is very cool.”
Watch the full disappearing act below:
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