It was a quiet morning at Octopolis, down in Jervis Bay, Australia. Not much going on, a few octopuses at home… and then:
It’s a Wobbegong, or Carpet Shark (probably Orectolobus halei). They lie inconspicuously on the sea floor – or, at least, as inconspicuously as a 6 foot long shark can lie – and ambush passing prey. This one exploded upwards like a fleshy, toothy firework.
Below is a shot of his face (a crop – probably not smart to get this close).
The only comments I’ve seen about the “beard” suggest it helps with camouflage, as it makes it hard to see where the head ends and sea floor begins. Here’s the video of the whole sequence above, including a slow-motion version at 1/4 speed.
Octopolis is a site I study with Matt Lawrence and David Scheel. (The video, including the screenshots above, was taken by a GoPro camera left at the site.) Two large Wobbegongs seem to have moved in, and this is not good news for the octopuses. Numbers are down, and the octopuses that remain are being very cautious indeed. The sharks, rays, and other fish at the site are starting to form a story of their own, though. The photo below is interesting. In the background there is a Wobbegong, in the very front there is a baby shark of another species – a Port Jackson shark – and if you look closely, between them there is a tiny octopus.
(If you can’t see the octopus, click here.)
Here’s a portrait of him or her, sitting very quietly, just about the smallest octopus I’ve ever seen.
‘Destination NSW’ asked me to put in a link to their information page for visitors to Jervis, which I am happy to do. It’s a very good place to visit. The information page is here.