Various types of octopuses are among the most intriguing ocean inhabitants, known for their intelligence, color-changing abilities, and alien-looking appearances. This article is a detailed guide to the top 16 species of octopus, including their distinct traits, behaviors, diet, and impact on evolution. Learn to appreciate these soft-bodied undersea creatures as you read through.
Related Read: Octopus Facts
Fun Fact: The Giant Pacific Octopus is the largest octopus species and one of the most intelligent. They can solve puzzles, open jars, and mimic other animals to avoid predators.
The North Pacific is home to the Giant Pacific Octopus, whose largest known specimen measures 32 feet from arm to arm and weighs 600 pounds.
Despite its vast size, the octopus only lives for 3 to 5 years. It is also a solitary creature, only seeking companionship during mating. Moreover, mating triggers a series of changes called senescence, which causes rapid aging and eventual death. After mating, the female Giant Pacific Octopus lays thousands of eggs and watches over them until they hatch and venture into the ocean. Unfortunately, the female octopus often dies of starvation soon after.
Fun Fact: The common octopus is an intelligent creature that can solve problems. Moreover, scientists consider it an expert explorer.
These octopuses live in the tropical and temperate depths of the world's oceans and live only for 1-2 years. Their soft body enables them to fit through tight spaces, protecting them from predators and giving them access to more habitats. Additionally, they can change skin color and texture, allowing them to blend in with their surroundings.
Fun Fact: The Dumbo Octopus has ear-like fins on either side of its head, making it look like the famous Disney character Dumbo. These fins also add to the animal’s mobility.
Moreover, the Dumbo Octopus dwells between 1,300 and 23,000 feet below the surface, making them one of the deepest-dwelling octopuses. While food is scarce in their dark, cold abyss, they feed on crustaceans, worms, and bivalves. Unlike other cephalopods, Dumbo Octopuses do not try to “capture” prey but swallow whatever comes in their path.
Fun Fact: The Mimic Octopus, as its name indicates, can modify its color, shape, and movement to imitate creatures like venomous lionfish and sea snakes.
The Mimic Octopus has fascinated scientists since its discovery in 1998. This octopus lives along the Indonesian coastline and can perform up to fifteen transformations3. Check out their mindblowing transformation here.
Fun Fact: Despite its small size, this Blue-ringed octopus contains a neurotoxin that can paralyze its prey within minutes1. Its vibrant blue rings warn potential predators to keep their distance.
The Blue-ringed Octopus is a small marine species found in the ocean. Its potent venom, called tetrodotoxin, can kill adult humans. Moreover, the octopus’ blue rings pulsate when threatened, warning intruders to back off.
This venomous type of octopus lives in the balmy waters of the Indo-Pacific region, from Japan to Australia, camouflaging themselves in shallow tide pools and coral reefs.
Fun Fact: The California Two-Spot Octopus has two blue spots, or ocelli, under its eyes. These spots help the octopus appear larger and more intimidating to potential predators.
Moreover, this octopus–also known as the bimac octopus–typically conceals itself in the kelp forests of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, particularly along shallow waters, at most 20 meters.
Fun Fact: The violet blanket octopus has a high sexual dimorphism. Females can grow up to two meters long, while males only reach a maximum length of about 2.4 centimeters. Scientists first discovered a male specimen in 2002 near the Great Barrier Reef. However, the common blanket octopus spends most of its life in warm ocean waters worldwide.
Small females and males measuring less than 7 cm often carry the tentacles of the Portuguese man o' war. This interesting adaptation is believed to be a defense mechanism and a means of capturing prey. However, this adaptation loses effect as the octopus grows larger, which may explain why males of this species are typically smaller. Meanwhile, females have webbing in their arms, making them look bigger to potential predators. Additionally, they can easily detach the webbing if a predator bites into it, allowing them to escape.
Fun Fact: The Atlantic Pygmy Octopus measures only about 4 inches long and can change its color and texture to mimic rocks, coral, and algae.
Despite their small size, these octopuses are skilled hunters, using their potent venom to capture crustaceans. They are also solitary, only seeking their kind for mating; afterward, female octopuses lay numerous eggs and guard them until they hatch.
Fun Fact: This octopus is the smallest known octopus species in the world, measuring only about 2.5 centimeters long. It’s so tiny it can fit on one's finger.
Moreover, its name comes from its distinctive suckers shaped like tiny stars. It can also change color at will, accurately mimicking its surroundings and even replicating its texture to hide from predators and prey.
Fun Fact: The Algae octopus is the “only land octopus” since it lives on beaches. It walks from one tidal pool to another while hunting crabs2.
This unique type of octopus can blend in with the sea floor thanks to its resting camouflage that looks like an algae-covered shell. These creatures live in the intertidal zones along the Philippine, Indonesian, and Northern Australian coasts, building dens on the sea floor, which they line with small pebbles.
Fun Fact: Unlike other octopuses, the Larger Pacific Striped Octopus displays cooperative behavior and engages in social interactions4. They live in small groups and even participate in mating rituals together.
The Larger Pacific Striped Octopus thrives in clusters of up to 40 individuals. While hunting, the octopus can startle and trigger movement in its prey with a quick touch, allowing it to trap its prey easily. Additionally, the octopus uses two arms to maintain an upright posture while moving.
Fun Fact: The Caribbean Reef Octopus has sharp beaks that crack open crab and lobster shells.
Moreover, they are solitary creatures that only seek other octopuses during the mating season. The female lays up to 500 eggs and fiercely guards them until they hatch, putting their safety over her well-being.
Fun Fact: The Day Octopus is awake during the day, unlike most of its nocturnal relatives.
Like others, it is also intelligent enough to use tools and solve problems. While it doesn’t have a backbone, it survives in the water through its ability to change color as camouflage.
Fun Fact: The Red Octopus can easily escape from tight spaces, even those as small as a quarter-inch in diameter, enabling it to escape danger and navigate its environment effectively.
At night, the Red Octopus hunts crustaceans and small fish, using jet propulsion to move through the water quickly. It can also manipulate objects and solve puzzles.
Fun Fact: The Coconut Octopus can use tools. They carry coconut shells and seashells as portable shelters and armor against potential predators.
This medium-sized octopus lives in the western Pacific Ocean, often in coastal seabeds with sandy or muddy underwater landscapes. Moreover, it can change color to match its surroundings.
Fun Fact: Despite what its name indicates, our last type of octopus, the Seven-Arm Octopus, has eight arms like the others. This misnomer results from the males' behavior of curling up one of their arms to hide it, leading observers to count only seven arms.
Female Seven-Arm Octopuses are among the largest creatures in the water. They can grow up to 4 meters long and weigh 75 kg. Moreover, they have a reddish-pink color that distinguishes them underwater.
Williams, B. L., Stark, M. R., & Caldwell, R. L. (2012). Microdistribution of tetrodotoxin in two species of blue-ringed octopuses (Hapalochlaena lunulata and Hapalochlaena fasciata) detected by fluorescent immunolabeling. Toxicon, 60(7), 1307-1313.
Huffard, Christine L. (2007). Ethogram of Abdopus Aculeatus (d'Orbigny, 1834) (Cephalopoda: Octopodidae): Can Behavioural Characters Inform Octopodid Taxonomy and Systematics?. Journal of Molluscan Studies. 73 (2): 93–185.
Huffard, C. L., Saarman, N., Hamilton, H., & Simison, W. B. (2010). The evolution of conspicuous facultative mimicry in octopuses: an example of secondary adaptation? Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 101(1), 68-77.
Caldwell, R. L., Ross, R., Rodaniche, A., & Huffard, C. L. (2015). Behavior and body patterns of the Larger Pacific Striped Octopus. PloS one, 10(8), e0134152.