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Octopus superciliosus (Family Octopodidae)

Frilled Pygmy Octopus



South-east Australia from South Australia to Tasmania and eastern Victoria (VIC, TAS, SA).


A small octopus with an armspan reaching up to 15 cm. The body is oval-shaped with a pointed rear tip. The arms are narrow and around three times the body length, each with two rows of suckers. The webs are of moderate depth. The colour is red-brown with white markings and regular white flaps around the sides of the body, from which it gets its common name. Spikes of skin can be raised, one over each eye and three on the body.

Ecology/Way of Life:

There is very little known of this pygmy octopus as most specimens have been collected from shallow water trawls. It lives on sand or mud substrates, often in seagrass beds or sponge gardens. As with other pygmy species, their small size allows them to live in habitats out of sight of humans, such as deep amongst the leaves and roots of seagrasses or seaweeds. The only record of a wild observation was a single animal camouflaged as a piece of red seaweed, hitching a ride on the back of a large shellfish, a Wavy Volute.

Pygmy octopuses have probably evolved from the pressures to remain hidden. Octopuses make an excellent meal; they lack spines or armour and most lack poisons. Being small helps in remaining hidden from larger fish predators. Some pygmy octopuses spend most of their lives hidden in the roots of kelps or small coral heads, feeding on the many small crustaceans and fish that also seek shelter in these refuges. Natural selection would favour octopuses that mature at smaller sizes so that they can reproduce without being forced out of their safe havens. Some pygmy species are adult at the size of a fingernail, weighing less than a gram.

Little is known of reproduction in this species. Females produce large eggs that would hatch into bottom-living young.

Preferred Image

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

There are no human harvests of this poorly known species.

Further Reading:

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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Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 129509 bytes Frilled Pygmy Octopus
Distribution Map  
image/jpeg 33366 bytes Distribution of Frilled Pygmy Octopus

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