Rare sighting off Lady Elliot Island, Queensland

Grasp Reef Information and Marine Biologist, Jacinta Shackleton, has seen within the New Yr in type with a once-in a-lifetime expertise, coming head to head with a uncommon blanket octopus in waters off Woman Elliot Island on 6 January 2022. The blanket octopus is so-called due to the sheets of webbing between its arms which, when outstretched, produce a blanket-like show to discourage any would-be attackers. However what’s actually attention-grabbing about this species is the dimensions distinction between the genders – the male is the dimensions of a walnut while the feminine could be as much as 6 ft lengthy – the best sexual measurement dimorphism within the marine world!

Ms Shackleton has been conducting analysis and diving the reef round Woman Elliot Island on Queensland’s Southern Nice Barrier Reef for nearly 4 years and has by no means come throughout the technicoloured marine mollusc earlier than – demonstrating the rarity of its sighting.

“I used to be snorkelling about 100m off the shore with a pal, in about eight or 9 metres of water, once I noticed this rainbow-coloured flicker,” Ms Shackleton mentioned. “Once I first noticed it, I assumed it might have been a juvenile fish with lengthy fins, however because it got here nearer, I realised it was a feminine blanket octopus and I had this overwhelming sense of pleasure and pleasure.

“I saved yelling by way of my snorkel, ‘it’s a blanket octopus!’ I used to be so excited I used to be discovering it troublesome to carry my breath to dive down and video it. Seeing one in actual life is indescribable, I used to be so captivated by its actions, it was as if it was dancing by way of the water with a flowing cape. The colourful colors are simply so unimaginable, you’ll be able to’t take your eyes off it. I’ve really by no means seen something prefer it earlier than and don’t assume I ever will once more in my life.”

A paper by Museums Victoria Senior Curator for Marine Invertebrates, Dr Julian Finn, and colleagues, states that sightings of this species are so uncommon – the primary stay male was noticed simply 21 years in the past on the Ribbon Reefs additional north on Nice Barrier Reef, whereas Ms Shackleton believes there to be solely three different sightings of the blanket octopus at Woman Elliot Island earlier than her personal encounter.

The feminine blanket octopus can shed her distinctive fluorescent colored cape in self-defence, and the species can take stinging cells from different organisms to make use of as a weapon. Ms. Shackleton mentioned that the blanket octopus usually spends its lifecycle within the open ocean so it’s much more uncommon to see one on the reef. She feels fortunate and grateful to have been within the water on the proper time to seize such vivid imaginative and prescient of the spectacular species.

“Lots of pictures you’ll see are of people in captivity or at night time, so I’m very fortunate to have seen one throughout the day, within the wild, and to have had two cameras with me on the time,” Ms Shackleton mentioned. “At the present time has acquired to be considered one of my all-time favorite reef experiences, and I’m already planning to explode some large-scale prints to hold in my home to rejoice the second.”

This isn’t Ms Shackleton’s first extraordinary sighting off Woman Elliot Island having encountered a uncommon ornate eagle ray in 2020, a fever of greater than 100 distinctive cownose rays in 2021 and a uncommon melanistic manta ray additionally in 2021.

Woman Elliot Island is house to an abundance of vibrant marine life, making it one of the vital sought-after locations for a once-in-a-lifetime Nice Barrier Reef expertise.