A majority of the interaction with other species that Wunderpus photogenicus has been observed doing is through predation. Wunderpus has been found feeding on crab and small fishes in the soft sediment of the intertidal regions. Their prey tends to consume small shrimp and pieces of fish meat. This octopus typically reaches peak activity around the dusk and dawn hours, while their prey is usually more active during the day (Hochberg et al. 2006). It remains active during the dusk and dawn hours even though this puts them at risk when it comes to predation by other organisms. The reward that capturing prey brings must outweigh the inherent risk of predation by other organisms.

Wunderpus preparing to forage through the sediment. Photo credit: Dr. Christine HuffardAlthough there are many morphological characteristics that distinguish Wunderpus from other octopus species (Hochberg et al. 2006), similar techniques for capturing prey are found across species (Norman et al. 2009).  Although most octopus species are found to use the tactics of pouncing and groping, Wunderpus uses probing and netting (Fontoura-da-Silva et al 2013). For probing (Fontoura-da-Silva et al. 2013; Hochberg et al. 2006), the suckers are used to contain the prey after the arms forage through the sediment. For netting (Fontoura-da-Silva et al. 2013) or web casting (Hochberg et al. 2006), the octopus creates a net or umbrella-like structure with its own body over the sediment. Its goal is to trap any prey that may be hiding underneath the sediment (Fontoura-da-Silva et al 2013). The video below displays these two foraging techniques wonderfully. The first test of a snail doesn’t seem to interest the octopus too much. Then, you see the Wunderpus create a net over the crab and eventually completely consume it in very little time. This goes to show how efficient this type of predation can be! Next, the Wunderpus seems to probe the sediment to locate prey, which happens to be the grass shrimp in this instance. The suckers on the ends of its tentacles finish of the process by pulling the shrimp in to consume it.

This species isn’t only a predator, but also prey. Like many other long-armed octopi, Wunderpus is capable arm autonomy. This arm autonomy means that it can unattach its own arms at the base of its body. It also has the ability to regrow these arms after loss. One octopus has even been seen regrowing three of its arms at one time. This is used as a way to avoid predation by bating the predator with the arm, detaching the arm at the base, and then escaping to regrow the detached arm (Hochberg et al. 2006). This ability to regenerate arms is quite incredible, and is also a great adaptation to avoid predation. Although it is known how it is able to escape predation, it is not as clear what organisms actually prey on this species. There have been suggestions that fish such as flounder and scorpion fishes may be the culprits. There have even been observations of predation by mantis fish, but that remains a debate (Hochberg et al. 2006).  Whatever the predator, it is clear the Wunderpus is ready to escape to live another day.


Video credit: Jessica Kendall-Bar

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