A rare blanket octopus, which is known to inhabit the open ocean, has been spotted swimming in shallow waters off Lady Elliot Island.
Marine biologist and master reef guide Jacinta Shackleton captured amazing footage and photos of the female specimen recently with it's bright orange ‘blanket' cape a stark contrast against the blue of the ocean.
According to Jacinta, the blanket octopus encounter was something very special to come across in her line of work.
“These animals are a rarely encountered pelagic octopus species that spend their whole lifecycle in the open ocean,” she said.
“The first live male was only sighted in 2002!”
Jacinta said she spotted the bright, female blanket octopus on Thursday while snorkelling with a friend off Lady Elliot Island .
“The colours in her cape were incredible and it was fascinating to watch the way she moved through the water,” she said.
“When I first saw it I thought it could have been a juvenile fish with long fins, but as it came closer I realised it was a blanket octopus and I was overjoyed and couldn’t contain my excitement!
“Surely a once-in-a-lifetime encounter for me, so grateful!”
According to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the blanket octopus spends most of its life floating in the open ocean.
“The blanket octopus gets its name from its female counterpart: rarely-seen and super-sized, the female blanket octopus has a long, fleshy ‘cape’ enclosing its tentacles.
“This cape makes the octopus appear larger and more intimidating to potential predators.”
The GBR Foundation states that the female is the larger sex of the species and can grow up to two metres long.
“In contrast, the male blanket octopus measures a mere 2.4cm—smaller than a walnut—meaning the blanket octopus have the largest gender size discrepancy in the animal kingdom.”
Jacinta said she was thrilled to have captured such an elusive creature on camera.
“A lot of images have come from individuals in captivity so I believe I’m extremely lucky to have seen one during the day, on the reef and in the wild and to have had two cameras with me!” she said.
Check out footage of the blanket octopus spotted at Lady Elliot Island on Jacinta's Instagram account here.