Mat Rogerson regularly goes snorkeling off the coast of Perth in Western Australia to clean up underwater litter.
Recently, after a clean-up dive, Rogerson got home and began his usual routine: cleaning his wetsuit and gear before watering his garden. That’s when he noticed something strange emerging from his pile of snorkeling gear.
It was a blue-ringed octopus, he said in an Oct. 21 Facebook post.
The “undeniably stunning” creatures have an “adorably small size and Instagrammable appearance,” according to experts at the London Natural History Museum. But despite their looks, they are “exceptionally deadly” and among the ocean’s most toxic creatures.
Rogerson said he thinks the creature was hidden in some of the trash he collected from underwater — either a black snorkel or a rubber dog ball with a hole in it.
“Didn’t feel a bite, but now read the bite is painless,” Rogerson wrote in his post. “I’ll be far more careful what I tuck into my wetsuit in future.”
The snorkeler took the tiny creature back to shore, according to his post.
Blue-ringed octopuses typically live in coral reefs and rocky regions in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, museum experts said. They can also be found in “tide pools, seagrass and algal beds.”
The creatures are covered with bright blue rings that they display when threatened, according to experts. They excrete tetrodotoxin from their salivary glands, which has been reported to be “over 1,000 times more toxic than cyanide.”
The octopuses can deliver their venom with a “near-painless bite,” experts said. The poison works quickly, “weakening and paralysing muscles” while also causing vomiting and dizziness. Victims lose their ability to move before they die from respiratory failure.
Social media users were shocked by Rogerson’s encounter.
“That’s a close call and good lesson for everyone,” one person wrote.
“I’d rather get bitten by a shark than that thing,” another person commented.
“You managed to clean up the ocean, help out an octopus and not die interestingly but unexpectedly all in an hour or 2!” a third comment said.