Frilled Pygmy Octopus 

Octopus superciliosus Quoy & Gaimard, 1832

View scientific description and taxonomy

Scientific Details

Eight circumoral appendages; eight arms, ventrolateral tentacles absent. Mantle cavity with one opening to exterior. Arms with numerous suckers, without horny, toothed rims. Fins absent. Dorsal border of mantle fused with head. Small species. Mantle broadly ovoid. Head wide but narrower than mantle. Arms long, to around 3.5 times mantle length. Ventral or lateral arms longest (typically 4>3>2>1 or 3>4>2>1). Webs shallow, approximately 20-35% of arm length. Web deepest on lateral arms, shallowest between dorsal arms. Suckers biserial; enlarged suckers absent. Gills with six to eight lamellae per demibranch. Funnel organ VV-shaped, outer limbs approximately 75% length of medial limbs. Funnel locking apparatus absent. Ink sac present. Right third arm of males hectocotylized, length 75-110% of opposite arm. Ligula wide, 8-14% of arm length. Ligula groove long, well marked and shallow, with approximately 20 complete transverse ridges. Calamus long, 35-55% of ligula length. Hectocotylized arm with 46-66 suckers. Eggs large, length around 8-11 mm. Colour red-brown with white markings. Sculpture on dorsal mantle includes approximately seven sub-parallel rows along mantle length, each consisting of four to five elongate, unbranched papillae. Single large papillae forms posterior point of mantle. Multiple papillae occur in eye region including single large papilla above each eye and numerous smaller papillae around each eye. Skin ridge around lateral margin of mantle absent however two rows of four to five elongated papillae on ventrolateral surface resemble lateral ridges.
Maximum mantle length to 26 mm, total length to 94 mm.



General Description

Small, pygmy octopus. Body oval-shaped with pointed rear tip. Colour red-brown with white markings. Sides of body with two rows of regular, white, elongated papillae (flaps of skin), from which species gets its common name. Unbranched fingers of skin may be raised all over the body. A single finger of skin above each eye. Mantle length to 3 cm, total length to 9 cm.


There is very little known about this pygmy octopus as most specimens have been collected from shallow water trawls. As with other pygmy species, their small size allows them to live in habitats out of sight of humans, such as deep amongst the leaves and roots of seagrasses or seaweeds. The only record of a wild observation was a single animal camouflaged as a piece of red seaweed, hitching a ride on the back of a large shellfish, a Wavy Volute. It is assumed that they eat crustaceans like most other octopus species. Pygmy octopuses have probably evolved from the pressures to remain hidden. Octopuses make an excellent meal; they lack spines or armour and most lack poisons. Being small helps them to remain hidden from larger fish predators. Some pygmy octopuses spend most of their lives hidden in the roots of kelps or small coral heads, feeding on the many small crustaceans and fish that also seek shelter in these refuges. Natural selection would favour octopuses that mature at smaller sizes so that they can reproduce without being forced out of their safe havens. Some pygmy species are adult at the size of a fingernail, weighing less than a gram. Little is known of reproduction in this species. Females produce large eggs that would hatch into bottom-living young.


Sand or mud substrates, often in seagrass beds or sponge gardens, to a depth of at least 69 m.

Seagrass meadows

Soft substrates

Distribution guide

South-eastern Australia.

Species Group

Octopuses and allies Octopuses


Shallow (1-30 m)
Deep ( > 30 m)

Water Column

On or near sea floor

Max Size

10 cm




Potential to bite, especially if handled. Venom status unknown.

Commercial Species


Global Dispersal

Native to Australia

Species Code

MoV 1719


Conservation Status

  • DSE Advisory List : Not listed
  • EPBC Act 1999 : Not listed
  • IUCN Red List : Not listed


article author Finn, J.K.

Dr. Julian Finn is a Senior Curator of marine invertebrates at Museum Victoria.


article author Norman, M.

Dr. Mark Norman is Head of Sciences at Museum Victoria.


Cite this page as:
Finn, J.K. & Norman, M., 2011, Frilled Pygmy Octopus, Octopus superciliosus, in Taxonomic Toolkit for marine life of Port Phillip Bay, Museum Victoria, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

Text: creative commons cc by licence