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.