Apr. 26, 2011 Cuttlefish have the amazing ability to instantly change their color and body pattern so they can hide from predators or, alternatively, broadcast their presence to potential mates. A new study led by Sarah Zylinski of Duke University shows just how good these animals (relatives of octopus and squid) are at this quick change routine.
Using sophisticated image analysis techniques, Zylinski and her team compared the color patterns of cuttlefish to patterns in their surroundings, both when the animals were hiding and when they were signaling. "The analysis shows that the cuttlefish are able to match intricate visual characteristics of their aquatic environments to maximize their camouflage against the visual systems of their vertebrate predators," Zylinski said.
"However, in the presence of females, the males adopt body patterns that deviate from their immediate environment and make themselves maximally conspicuous."
The research also suggests that cuttlefish may seek out simpler backgrounds when attempting to signal.
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- S. Zylinski, M. J. How, D. Osorio, R. T. Hanlon, N. J. Marshall. To Be Seen or to Hide: Visual Characteristics of Body Patterns for Camouflage and Communication in the Australian Giant CuttlefishSepia apama. The American Naturalist, 2011; 177 (5): 681 DOI: 10.1086/659626
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