Watch an octopus change color while sleeping

This octopus changes color while sleeping in the PBS TV show Octopus: Making Contact.


Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Do octopuses dream? Watch a sleeping octopus that could very well be dreaming, in this video clip posted on YouTube on Monday to promote the TV show Octopus: Making Contact on PBS. 

While the octopus sleeps its skin changes into a multitude of color patterns flashing by one after another, and it’s downright mesmerizing to watch. The sleeping octopus changes color from pale grey, to white, to beige and to a mottled greenish brown pattern. 

When it’s awake, an octopus will often change its color as a natural instinct to camouflage itself when it’s hunting or trying to escape a predator. So it’s compelling to think that a sleeping octopus changes its skin color when it possibly dreams of hunting food or hiding on a rock.

In the video, marine biologist and Alaska Pacific University professor David Scheel narrates what the dream might be based on the octopus’s color at that moment.

“She’s asleep; she sees a crab and her color starts to change a little bit,” Scheel says in the video. “Then she turns all dark. Octopuses will do that when they leave the bottom.”

“This is a camouflage, like she’s just subdued a crab and now she’s going to sit there and eat it and she doesn’t want anyone to notice her,” Dr. Scheel added. “If she’s dreaming, that’s the dream.”

Octopus: Making Contact premieres Oct. 2 on PBS. 

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Bonnie Burton

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