Unsurprisingly, the Caribbean reef octopus is found throughout the Caribbean, deep within coral reefs. It can grow up to 40 inches long, including its tentacles. As a defense mechanism, it can change color—from blue-green and brown to shimmery red—as well as texture.
Caribbean reef octopuses establish lairs in the reef, which they often disguise with rocks and coral. Although they move their dens regularly, they protect them fiercely. If a strange octopus does not retreat, the defender will sometimes even strangle and eat it.
The same fate awaits unlucky male octopuses who try to mate with uninterested females. If attacked when hunting, the Caribbean reef octopus can pull water into itself, then shoot it out to speed the other way, often also releasing a cloud of ink to confuse predators.
Octopuses hunt at dawn or dusk, which is typical for crustaceans like crabs and shrimp. These cephalopods are fished locally, but not on a large scale, and they are not believed to be at risk of extinction, although they may struggle if the reefs they call home disappear.
Learn more about the Caribbean reef octopus and other fascinating animals at Oceana’s marine life encyclopedia.
You’ve probably seen tiger cowrie shells, which can be as large as six inches long. In cream, brown, and black, with a variety of patterns, they are so popular that they were once used as money.
The residents of these shells, which are a type of snail, are nocturnal. During the day, they take shelter from predators in coral reefs; at night, they eat algae and sponges. They can also eat fire coral and anemones despite their stings.
Most of the time, a live tiger cowrie’s shell is covered by its mantle, which is its outermost layer. The mantle forms spikes that may help the cowrie breathe or avoid predators. The cowrie can also pull its entire body inside its shell to protect itself.
Tiger cowries are found in tidal areas and shallow reefs in the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. You can learn more about tiger cowries and hundreds of other marine animals in Oceana’s marine life encyclopedia.
Happy Monday, ocean lovers! Today’s featured marine animal is the queen triggerfish. Found in coral reefs in the Caribbean and Eastern Atlantic shallow waters, this colorful fish is large and aggressive.
These fish greet intruders with throbbing sounds produced by special membranes. At night, they use their dorsal spine to lock themselves into their burrows so predators can’t pull them out to eat them.
Queen triggerfish are dedicated hunters and prey on lobsters, crabs, shellfish, and urchins. To avoid the sharp spines of sea urchins, they blow water under it to flip it upside-down and expose the safer underside. Sometimes they even pick a sea urchin up by one spine to perform this flip.
The species is considered vulnerable because of hunting pressure (it is popular for human consumption), and there is a possibility it would be at greater risk if its sea urchin prey experienced steep population declines.
You can learn more about queen triggerfish and hundreds of other marine animals from Oceana’s marine wildlife encyclopedia.