Night vision by cuttlefish enables changeable camouflage. Academic Article uri icon


  • Because visual predation occurs day and night, many predators must have good night vision. Prey therefore exhibit antipredator behaviours in very dim light. In the field, the giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama) assumes camouflaged body patterns at night, each tailored to its immediate environment. However, the question of whether cuttlefish have the perceptual capability to change their camouflage at night (as they do in day) has not been addressed. In this study, we: (1) monitored the camouflage patterns of Sepia officinalis during the transition from daytime to night-time using a natural daylight cycle and (2) tested whether cuttlefish on a particular artificial substrate change their camouflage body patterns when the substrate is changed under dim light (down to starlight, 0.003 lux) in a controlled light field in a dark room setting. We found that cuttlefish camouflage patterns are indeed adaptable at night: animals responded to a change in their visual environment with the appropriate body pattern change. Whether to deceive their prey or predators, cuttlefish use their excellent night vision to perform adaptive camouflage in dim light.

publication date

  • December 1, 2010