The Southern Sand Octopus Can Build Its Own Burrow In The Sand

With no other defenses, disappearing beneath the substrate is quick for this octopus.

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The southern sand octopus can dig a burrow in the sand and reinforce the walls of the burrow.
John Virata

Octopuses are known as masters of camouflage, mimicry and can escape just as good as Houdini, but they weren’t known to burrow in the sand to escape predation, until now.


Researchers first discovered the digging trait of the southern sand octopus back in 2008 when researchers shone a flashlight onto the octopus. It proceeded to shoot jets of water into the sand beneath it until it seemingly buried itself in the sand. Based on this observation, the scientists knew the octopus could dig a hole in the sand and disappear really quickly, and stay buried for any length of time because it keeps a small hole open in which it can breath.

The southern sand octopus can dig a burrow in the sand and reinforce the walls of the burrow.

The digging is not the most impressive part of the story though as the scientists determined that the octopus reinforces the hole in which it dug with mucus, creating what Jasper Montana of the University of Melbourne says is a true burrow. Montana says the octopus creates a chimney in which it can continue breathing while solidifying the walls of the burrow with a layer of mucus. The researchers call it  “advanced sand-fluidisation and adhesive mucus for sediment manipulation.”

Montana and his colleagues speculate that the burrowing is another form of protection from potential predators, given the southern sand octopus does not retain the camouflage capabilities of other octopuses. It is a neat feat of engineering nonetheless.

John Virata has been keeping fish since he was 10 years old.  He currently keeps an 80 gallon cichlid tank, a 20 gallon freshwater community tank and a 29 gallon BioCube with a Percula clown, a huge blue green chromis, and a firefish all in his kitchen, and a 55 gallon FOWLR tank with a pair of Ocellaris clowns, two blue green chromis, a six line wrasse, a peppermint shrimp, assorted algae and a few aiptasia anemones in his living room. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata

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