The caress of the octopus

It’s like this. I was standing in a rock pool at Flat Rock, Ballina last weekend. Low tide. Good critters, like this one …

Hoplodoris nodulosa, yellow form

Hoplodoris nodulosa, yellow form

Hoplodoris nodulosa_4

I hadn’t seen it before, so when home hopped on the interweb, into my reference books and onto Gary Cobb and David Mullin’s app, Nudibranchs of the Sunshine Coast Australia and Indo-Pacific Region. No luck there, but a quick email to the ever-reliable Gary sorted it out:

“This is a yellow colour-form of Hoplodoris nodulosa. See Nudibranchs of the World by Debelius and Kuiter. Also see

“May I use you photo, with full credit, in the next Aus/NZ App update?”

Naturally, I said “certainly!” I’d been fooled by the colour. Gary’s app can be searched by colour but this 2 cm beauty wasn’t in the yellow section. After the next update, it will be. I was searching the reference books by shape, then by colour, too. And that reference book by Debelius and Kuiter must be the only nudi reference book I don’t have. Not for long!

Other goodies included more nudis …

Plocamopherus imperialis

Plocamopherus imperialis

Plocamopherus imperialis

Plocamopherus imperialis

Dendrodoris nigra

Dendrodoris nigra

Hydatina physis (bubble snail, below, left) [update: actually Bullina lineata – thanks for your comment, Hazel] is not a nudibranch. This one was really small, as for compaison the D. nigra (right) was only a couple of centimetres in length …

Hydatina physis and Dendrodoris nigra

Bullina lineata (left) and Dendrodoris nigra (right)

The scribbled doriopsilla (Doriopsilla miniata) made an appearance, but there’s a better photo in a previous post

Scribbled doriopsilla (Doriopsilla miniata)

Scribbled doriopsilla (Doriopsilla miniata)

There were loads of sea hares, Aplysia species. Were these two up for mating? A couple of weekends ago, we’d come across a (human) family looking in the pools. The kids had found a sea hare, so I told them what it was. The little girl asked if it was a boy or a girl, and was flummoxed when I said “Both”. She asked whether they started off as one or the other, then changed (smart kid). No. They sometimes form mating chains. I stuttered to a stop when I realised I was about to get into “the birds and the bees” in a most peculiar way. Andrew said later I should have said “Ask your father”  (evil grin).


Aplysia sp. going a’courting

Still with the molluscs, we had the side-gilled sea slug, Pleurobranchus peroni

Side-gilled sea slug, Pleurobranchus peroni

Side-gilled sea slug, Pleurobranchus peroni

Large shells can often be spotted at extra low tides, like the red whelk, Charonia lampas rubicunda. This one was about 18 cm long.

Charonia lampas rubicunda

Charonia lampas rubicunda

This military turban (Turbo imperialis) was about 12 cm long …

Turbo imperialis

Turbo imperialis

On to the echinoderms … the usual colourful seastar, Patiriella calcar, was out in numbers.

Carpet seastar, Patiriella calcar

Carpet seastar, Patiriella calcar

The pin-cushion sea urchin, Tripneustes gratilla, was out in force, too. They like to cover themselves with bits’n’pieces for camouflage. They must be tasty to such birds as white-faced herons or oystercatchers, which are often seen on the rock platform.

Holopneustes porosissimus

Tripneustes gratilla

This common urchin species is confident enough not to need camouflage …

UrchinOn to the vertebrates – the pools make ideal nurseries for fish …

Nursery schoolDead in the water … either a blind shark (Brachaelurus waddi) or a varied catshark (Parascyllium variolatum). The shape indicates the former, but the spots the latter. It was about a metre long. Anyone know?

Blind shark or varied catshark?

Blind shark or varied catshark?

Blind shark or varied catshark?

You can just see the tentacles from each nostril

You can just see the tentacles from each nostril

This one of the same species was alive but I didn’t want to disturb its rest to get a better shot …

Blind shark or varied catshark_5Now this one I do know, at least to the extent that it’s a wobbegong, probably the banded (Orectolobus halei) …

Banded wobbegong (Orectolobus halei)It’s in its usual snooze mode under a ledge during the day … about 1.5 metres long.

banded wobbegong (Orectolobus halei)

Banded wobbegong (Orectolobus halei)

Now back to the octopus story. I was concentrating on photographing the nudibranchs, so didn’t take much notice of the tickling on my foot. It could have been a weed, after all. But it didn’t feel that weedlike – especially when I felt the same thing on the other side of my foot. I looked down – yikes – two octopuses being curious about my great big foot in their pool.

Octopus tetricus

Tickled pink by Octopus tetricus

One of the the perpetrators, the Sydney (or gloomy) octopus, Octopus tetricus

Octopus tetricus

One of the touchy feely Sydney octopuses, Octopus tetricus

I was tempted to stay immobile, to see how far they would come out, but my native caution and the memory of those sharp, parrot-like beaks decided me otherwise. What would have happened if they’d held hands across my foot? Next time I may have the courage to find out.

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13 Responses to The caress of the octopus

  1. peonyden says:

    At least it wasn’t a Blue Ringed Octopussy tickling you.

    • Joy Window says:

      You’re so right, Denis. I have seen one or two on that rock platform, and have beaten a hasty retreat, especially if they are “glowing”. Apparently their bite often goes unnoticed so I doubt I’d feel it anyway.

  2. Ken says:

    Well done Joy. A great outing and congratulations on the picture. Well done also for not going ballistic with the octopus. My childhood fears of spiders and earthworms have gone but I could not stand there with an octopus touching me!

    • Joy Window says:

      Thanks, Ken. The octopus’s touch was very gentle and exploring, not fear-inducing at all. It’s funny what people are afraid of – I met someone last year who is afraid of frogs, and someone else of leeches.

  3. Cath says:

    Fantastic Sea tour, thanks for blogging it. The nudibranchs quite a treat!

  4. Roz says:

    Thank you so much for this one Joy. I think I’ve learned more reading this than in all my coastal visits in the last many years.

  5. kathy says:

    Great photos, thanks Joy. Having your expert eye, and curious approach is so helpful. I also thought “blue-ring”, but was relieved to see it wasn’t. They are quite small, aren’t they?

  6. PeterS says:

    Looks like you had a great day. I will send you some nudie’s i took at christmas at woody

  7. Hazel from Sydney says:

    Love your blog, which I have just discovered. I am just beginning to explore under water (usually Clovelly) and very grateful for your sharing, especially about the octopus. It sounded like a gentle caress. I hope you do not mind if I correct one of your identifications — I think your beautiful tiny bubble snail is Bullina rather than Hydatina

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