Cuttlefish camouflage: visual perception of size, contrast and number of white squares on artificial checkerboard substrata initiates disruptive coloration. Academic Article uri icon


  • We investigated some visual background features that influence young cuttlefish, Sepia pharaonis, to change their skin patterning from 'general resemblance' of the substratum to disruptive coloration that breaks up their body form. Using computer-generated black/white checkerboard patterns as substrata, we first found that the size of the white squares had to be within a certain narrow range (relative to the size of the cuttlefish 'white square') for the animal to exhibit disruptive skin patterning. Second, given the appropriate size of checker, cuttlefish regulated their disruptive skin patterns according to the contrast between white and black squares. Third, by manipulating the number of white squares on a black background, we found that as few as four white squares among 316 black squares (or 1.25%) produced disruptive patterning, yet increasing the number of white squares to 20, 40 or 80 did not increase the frequency of appearance of the cuttlefish 'white square', but only its clarity of expression. These results demonstrate that the size, contrast and number of white objects in the surrounding substratum influence the production and expression of disruptive skin patterns in young cuttlefish.

publication date

  • June 2001