In the newly released Disney/Pixar hit Finding Dory, there is a highly entertaining scene where an octopus climbs up a wall, fully disguising himself with a poster on the wall and various other objects, in order to hide from workers at the fictional Marine Life Institute. It's a talent that the beloved cephalopod, known as Hank, uses throughout the majority of the film in order to help rescue Dory, the little blue tang fish at the center of all the chaos. But with all the hilarious antics that Hank and Dory get up to, many fans are likely asking themselves: Can octopuses really blend in with their surroundings, and are they actually capable of doing everything Hank does in the movie?
Breakout Finding Dory star Hank, whom Dory classifies as a "septopus" ("sep-" meaning "seven," as Hank only has seven tentacles), is voiced by actor Ed O'Neil. It's Hank's cunning ability to arrange a jail break that has viewers falling in love with him and has critics referring to him as the "real star" of the film. But is what people see in the movie actually true from a scientific standpoint?
According to marine biologists, octopuses can indeed change color and blend in with their surroundings. In fact, according to Auburn University marine biology professor Ken Halanych, octopuses can change faster and into more patterns than any other animal group on earth (sorry, chameleons). According to Halanych, you can be right on top of Octopuses and never see them, due to their ability of mimicking different shades of color.
Octopuses can change colors due to color changing cells underneath the skin called chromatophores which contain an elastic sac filled with different colored pigments, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. These cells are exactly what make octopuses, such as Hank, able to blend in with their surroundings so well. Octopuses can also change the texture of their skin to match rocks and other surfaces, making it easy for them to camouflage themselves against predators. Videos all across the internet, taken by snorkelers and scientists show just how easy it is for octopuses to blend in with their surroundings.
The portrayal of octopuses changing colors in Finding Dory is very accurate. This means that not only is Finding Dory entertaining, it is also educational. Therefore, people who leave the theater with questions can learn something new about octopuses that they never had known before. And while Hank the Octopus blends in with posters and things outside of his own environment, which might be a little far fetched, him changing colors is not completely out of realm of reality.
Fans who plan on watching the movie over and over again should keep an eye out for Hank changing colors the next time they see it and know that it happens in real life, all the time — because face it, that's pretty amazing. One side note though: unfortunately, real-life octopuses cannot drive trucks, as far as we know. Sorry, Hank.