In an upcoming PBS documentary Octopus: Making Contact, a clip was released that shows an octopus sleeping and changing colors. Octopuses (octopi?) typically change color as a way to camouflage themselves into their surroundings—as far as scientists knew.
In the video, the octopus floats upside down, asleep and possibly even dreaming. Whatever she’s doing, she’s changing colors while doing it.
Marine biologist Dr. David Scheel narrates the sequence, using the changing colors for cues.
So here she’s asleep, she sees a crab and her color starts to change a little bit. Then she turns all dark. Octopuses will do that when they leave the bottom. This is a camouflage, like she’s just subdued a crab and now she’s going to sit there and eat it and she doesn’t want anyone to notice her. …This really is fascinating. But yeah, if she’s dreaming that’s the dream. [laughs]
He is clearly surprised and impressed at the display, saying, “You don’t usually see [the color patterns flashing, one after another] when the animal’s sleeping.”
For all that octopuses are treated as weird, slimy fish, they may actually have much more involved lives than we imagine. After all, they can solve problems, unscrewing jars from the inside and escaping from highly secured tanks in aquariums.
If you’re not otherwise octopied, celebrate our tentacled sea friends on World Octopus Day on October 8. They’re pretty incredible creatures, after all.