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Monstrously harmless

Camuflaje de los pulpos

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Some marine animals resort to truly ingenious methods when it comes to defending themselves against an attack. Probably the most efficient of these methods consists of generating “false eyes.”

Octopuses, for example, are highly intelligent animals that usually live in caves but, when they venture out to hunt their prey, they are exposed to predator attacks. That’s why they have developed camouflage methods such as taking on the color of the background they rest on, which they do almost instantly upon making contact with it.

However, sometimes the background can be extremely smooth, and despite blending in with its color, octopuses are still discovered. To solve this inconvenience, some species “draw” two round black spots on their skin. Predators, animals that lack intelligence and act on instinct, see these two black spots as two terrifying eyes staring at them.

Considering that the size of the mouth is usually proportional to the eyes, the harmless octopus now takes on the appearance of a highly dangerous animal. This creates great confusion among predators, confusion that the octopus takes advantage of to escape.

Many other animals use “false eyes,” such as butterfly fish, which usually have a black stripe that conceals their true eye and a round spot at the tail representing a larger eye. Perhaps this eye doesn’t look as terrifying, but the shape of the fish and the black spot contribute to confusing the predator about which side the head, the attack point, is on.

Furthermore, predators won’t attack the fish directly but will aim their attack a few centimeters ahead of it, thinking that it will start fleeing when it feels attacked, and they can then cut off its escape route.

In fact, the surprise comes when the butterfly fish flees… but in the opposite direction. In this case, a split second of hesitation saves the victim’s life as it hides among the rocks on the seabed in time to avoid a second attack.

“You cannot defend what you do not love, and you cannot love what you do not know.”