Stalking the Poison Ocellate Octopus

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Saturday, August 16, 2014


YOU wouldn’t see them if you were not looking for them. More so, you won’t see them if you don’t know them. They are small, barely visible, not unless disturbed and they move.

A poison ocellate octopus or Octopus mototi, is among the prized finds of underwater photographers in these parts. They’re rare, according to the underwater photography world, but they are in our waters, well-camouflaged, unagressive.

As its name states, it’s poisonous. No, make that lethal. Like, dead in seconds.

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Like its species-mate the greater blue-ringed octopus (Hapalochlaenalunulata), a poison ocellate also has blue rings, except that it only had two, one each near where you’d imagine its ears would be.

Like all blue-ringed octopus, it feeds on small crabs and shrimps, which it stuns first with its poison, paralyzing the nervous system of its prey using a neurotoxin -- Tetrodotoxin.

This poison is so powerful, it can paralyze even a human in seconds and since there is no antidote, then it can kill as well.

It’s been described as the deadliest toxin that attacks the neuro system.
But divers need not worry, it does not attack for as long as you keep your distance and recognize the signs. An poison ocellate octopus will show strips in its bodies and will flash the two blue rings below its “ears” if agitated. This means, you are already moving to close to its comfort zone. The logical way then is to step back.

We had fun stalking this octpus in our dive off Dayan Beach Resort on Talikudisland in the Island Garden City of Samal last week. The octopus tried to scare us off with its poses, but only flashed a light blue irredescent ring before disappearing.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 17, 2014.

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