Blue Ringed Octopus

Blue ringed octopus is a small very dangerous creature.

It is small enough to fit in an empty sea shell on the ocean bottom where it likes to hide.

It is rather shy and doesn't bother you unless you pick it up or step on it.

But if it does bother, it has the poison to kill 26 people in one go.

It is found in all the waters around Australia, including Cape York.

A good reason to wear rubber boots when out on the reef, and to be careful with what to pick up when playing on tidal rock pools. Children are at a higher risk because of their small body size.

blue ringed octopus
By Angell Williams via

The animal is known for its blue rings, that are actually brown unless the animal is just about to poison someone.

Where Is It Found?

This animal comes in two different species, which together cover all the coasts of Australia.

Down south there is the Lesser, or Southern Blue Ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena maculosa), and up north we have the tropical Greater Blue Ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena lunulata).

While the southern species is only found in Australian waters, the northern species is found along the coasts of northern Australia as well as Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Indonesia and Philippines.

The animal is not often seen because it likes to hide on the sea bottom - in tidal rock pools and coral reefs. They hide in empty sea shells, clumps of algae and rock crevices.

blue ringed octopus habitat
By CirclesOfLight via

What Does It Look Like?

Greater blue ringed octopus is about the size of a golf ball.

Like other octopuses, it has eight arms.

Its body colour is beige, much the same as the sand that surrounds it.

On the sandy-coloured background, it has darker, brownish rings on its body.

Those only go blue if the animal is agitated.

Unless the rings are blue, the animal is well comouflaged and not always easy to see on the ocean bottom.

blue ringed octopus appearance
By Tom Weilenmann via


Their biggest favourite is crabs, but they also eat shrimp and other crustaceans, as well as small reef fish.

They hunt during the day, and they are ambush predators, which means that they sit in the same place and wait for the prey to come to them, rather than the other way around.

They usually only emerge from their hiding spots to hunt or mate.

They are not aggressive and only bite if threatened or agitated.

This most often happens when they are picked up or accidentally stepped on.

Watch what your kids are picking up when playing in rock pools.

It is not only cone shells that can be dangerous to pick up. In some other shells, there may be a blue ringed octopus.

blue ringed octopus behaviour
By Saspotato via

Bite and Venom

Its bite is very small and can be painless. Some people don't even notice it before the symptoms start showing.

Its venom is
tetrodotoxin - a kind of powerful neurotoxin, which is produced in the animal's salivary glands.

Tetrodotoxin causes nausea, numbness, weakness and severe or even total paralysis.

The victim will notice breathing difficulties which can be followed by respiratory arrest.

That will lead to cardiac arrest due to lacking oxygen in the brain, and can happen within minutes if not treated.

blue ring octopus
By Phil Camill via


A paralysed victim cannot breathe, move or respond, but remains conscious and can hear.

Ring an ambulance, and while waiting,

* apply pressure immobilisation bandage, in a similar way to snake bite. Every smart Australian has one in their first hand kit in their vehicle (particularly on a Cape York trip!).

* breathing difficulties that start within minutes have to be helped by rescue breathing until the ambulance arrives.

Once the ambulance arrives the victim needs to be hospitalised for artificial respiration.

There is no antivenin for treatment of the poison of blue ringed octopus.

The victim's body will actually, finally, get rid of this poison, but during the first 24 hours (at least) it needs respiratory support.

Once the poison is metabolised and the paralysis subsides the victim will regain the ability to breathe.

bluering octopus
By Saspotato via

There have been two reported fatalities in Australia from this poisonous creature.

cape york travel

Plan Your Trip... the FREE Cape York Travel Pocket Guide

Get this 50 pages guide totally for FREE. It contains information that helps you getting started with planning of your trip. You get to make early-stages desicions such as when to go, how long time you should take, how to get there and get around, where to stay (general info), what will it cost.. and a short insight to what is there to see and do in Cape York.

Plan and Bring to the Trip... the full Destination Cape York Travel Guide

visit cape york

This complete 300 pages travel guide is all you need before and during your trip. Besides the background chapters on the peninsula's history and wildlife; and the comprehensive detail about all the places (down to prices, opening hours and full contact detail), it has invaluable information on at least 10 four wheel drive tracks, at least 30 guaranteed FREE camping spots on the Cape (and at least 150 on your way to the Cape), at least 40 best swimming holes, all mapped; as well as practical things - from fuel, roads, wireless internet and mobile phone reception, how to deal with the national parks booking rules; and Aboriginal land entrance and camping permits and alcohol restrictions - to vehicle preparation and accessories and necessary recovery gear by my vehicle-recovery-guy partner). Not to mention locals' tips on how to spot that croc and palm cockatoo ;-)

If you liked the books or this website, let others know about it! 

Link to it from your website, your blog, your forum post... Share it on Facebook, Tweet about it...

Every link helps other travellers!

Thank you for doing the right thing and letting others know :-)

destination cape york

Latest Pages

Notice Board

Ask a Question

YOUR Adventure

YOUR Cape Memories

Keep yourself updated
on the latest -
weather, roads,
free travel tips,
and get the
FREE Cape York
Pocket Guide!




Don't worry - your email address is totally secure.
I use it only to send you the Cape York News.

Get the FREE Pocket Guide:
cape york travel free pocket guide

Get the Big Destination Guide
destination cape york book

Available with the Big Destination Guide:
cape york dog caravan trailer
FEEDBACK Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
cape york businesses

loyalty beach