Cuttlefish dynamic camouflage: responses to substrate choice and integration of multiple visual cues. Academic Article uri icon


  • Prey camouflage is an evolutionary response to predation pressure. Cephalopods have extensive camouflage capabilities and studying them can offer insight into effective camouflage design. Here, we examine whether cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis, show substrate or camouflage pattern preferences. In the first two experiments, cuttlefish were presented with a choice between different artificial substrates or between different natural substrates. First, the ability of cuttlefish to show substrate preference on artificial and natural substrates was established. Next, cuttlefish were offered substrates known to evoke three main camouflage body pattern types these animals show: Uniform or Mottle (function by background matching); or Disruptive. In a third experiment, cuttlefish were presented with conflicting visual cues on their left and right sides to assess their camouflage response. Given a choice between substrates they might encounter in nature, we found no strong substrate preference except when cuttlefish could bury themselves. Additionally, cuttlefish responded to conflicting visual cues with mixed body patterns in both the substrate preference and split substrate experiments. These results suggest that differences in energy costs for different camouflage body patterns may be minor and that pattern mixing and symmetry may play important roles in camouflage.

publication date

  • April 7, 2010