Octopuses are versatile predators; what their shifting, boneless bodies and eight arms can do might surprise you. They are also incredibly stealthy hunters that can ambush their prey seemingly from out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly.
Just ask Porsche Indrisie, who was strolling on the rocky tidepools of Smiths Beach, Yallingup, on Australia’s west coast. Of course, tide pools are a diverse ecosystem of sea life with a wide variety of species; she just happened to be filming with her phone when she captured quite the spectacle unfold.
“I have never seen anything like this before. I was filming with no purpose, but what I captured ended up being perfectly timed,” Indrisie told National Geographic.
A lone crab appeared in the shot, in front of Porsche, which didn’t seem all that alarmed by her presence as she approached, carefully avoiding pools of water scattered about the rocky shore. What came next was a terrific surprise both to Porsche and, apparently, the crab.
Like a purple bolt of lightning, a small, rubbery mass darted out of one of the pools of water and snatched the crab, and they both went tumbling out of sight together behind a rock.
Porsche gasped when she realized what had just happened: it was an octopus that had just ambushed the crab. She cried out to her companion, “It’s an octopus eating a crab!” Continuing to film, Porsche hopped over the rocks to get a better view. She captured all the drama as the purple octopus wrapped its wriggling arms around the crustacean, fighting to drag it into a watery grave for dinner.
In no time, the octopus had pulled the crab back into the pool and under a nice shady rock.
“Holy s***!” Porsche exclaimed in awe.
Octopuses are, in fact, very stealthy predators that are able to hide and even change shape and color to merge with their surroundings; they may approach their prey slowly before striking suddenly. Then, they envelope, bite, and inject neurotoxin into their prey, as Roger Hanlon from the Marine Biological Laboratory told National Geographic.
This sort of amphibious-style land ambush is typical of the species. According to Hanlon, octopuses can function on land as well as water—so long as their gills stay wet, they can last for “a minute or two.”
“It’s the suckers that often get fouled up if they traverse dry materials. In wet tide pools like this one, they are OK.”
“Some species of octopus make this their primary habitat, so they are adapted to staying in tide pools and making very short forays out of the water,” he said.
“The sheer aggressiveness is impressive even by cephalopod standards,” he added.
Yet, these crafty hunters must be quick on land; gulls are always on the watch for a tasty, eight-armed morsel. It looked like this one got away clean with a tasty snack to show for it—crab dinner is typically their favorite—also allowing Porsche to capture the lightning-fast ambush on camera.