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Octopus ornatus (Family Octopodidae)

White Striped Octopus


Tropical Indian Ocean and West Pacific Ocean from Africa to Hawaii and Easter Island (WA, QLD, NT).


A large elongate octopus with an armspan that reaches up to two metres. The body is oval-shaped to elongate and the eyes are large. The arms are long and muscular, the front pair being distinctly the longest. They are around 6 times the body length, each with two rows of suckers. The webs are shallow. The colour is red-brown with as fixed pattern of regular white stripes on the body and paired white spots down the arms. The skin is fairly smooth with long flaps able to be raised in the white stripes on the sides of the body.

Ecology/Way of Life:

This octopus lives on coral reefs in shallow waters. It is active at night hunting for various prey including fish, crustaceans and other octopuses. Hunting consists of probing long arms down holes or enveloping small coral heads within the webs and using the arm tips to flush prey into the waiting suckers. Stomachs frequently contain octopus beaks. Other night-active octopuses in the same habitat flee in an explosion of ink if a single arm of this octopus touches them. It is locally common on intertidal reef flats at night. The White Striped Octopus hides during the day buried in sand or rubble, closing the entrance to their temporary lairs with pieces of coral rubble.

Nothing is known of mating behaviour. Females lay tens of thousands of tiny eggs that hatch into small transparent young. These planktonic stages travel in ocean open currents over huge distances, allowing this species to occur over such a huge range: two thirds of the way round the world.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

This octopus is harvested in subsistence catches throughout its range. It was historically collected by Polynesian Hawaiians using flaming torches to find foraging animals at night. Animals were captured using hand spears.

Further Reading:

Norman, M.D. 1993. Octopus ornatus Gould, 1852 (Cephalopoda: Octopodidae) in Australian waters: morphology, distribution and life history. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 106(4): 645-660.

Norman, M.D. and A. Reid. 2000. A guide to the squid, cuttlefishes and octopuses of Australasia. Gould League/CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne. 96 pp.

Norman, M.D. 2000. Cephalopods: A world guide. ConchBooks, Hackenheim, Germany. 320 pp.


Text, map and photograph by Mark Norman, Museum Victoria.

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