Is it a Fish? A Snake? A Jelly? Actually, it’s a Mimic Octopus—and We Have One on Exhibit in Tentacles!

Ever wish you could become someone else? The mimic octopus can. In less time than it takes to say “alter ego,” this curious cephalopod can become a venomous lion fish. Or a sea snake. Or a jelly.

“It will mimic these other animals when it’s threatened,” says Aquarist Chris Payne. “To become a snake, for instance, it will display black-and-white bands, extend two arms lengthwise and bury the other arms in the sand.”

In another favorite trick, it outspreads all its tentacles like a big prickly ball, to resemble the spines on a lion fish. Or it expands its mantle to look like a giant jelly. It all says one thing to a potential predator: Stay clear!

We’re one of the few aquariums to display this fascinating species (Thaumoctopus mimicus), which was only discovered in 1998, says Chris. Ours came from Japan, and is almost two feet from tip to tip. Its native habitat is sandy estuaries in the Indo-Pacific region.

Come find it if you can!

Learn more about our Tentacles exhibit

Watch the mimic octopus become four different animals


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About me

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, perched on the edge of a world-famous coastline, is your window to the wonders of the ocean. It’s located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey and is open daily except Christmas Day.

For more information about our animals and exhibits, and to view our live web cams, please visit

Hours of operation vary by season. Daily schedules and tickets are available on our website or by calling
(831) 648-4800.