Color matching on natural substrates in cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis. Academic Article uri icon


  • The camouflaging abilities of cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) are remarkable and well known. It is commonly believed that cuttlefish-although color blind-actively match various colors of their immediate surroundings, yet no quantitative data support this notion. We assembled several natural substrates chosen to evoke the three basic types of camouflaged body patterns that cuttlefish express (uniform/stipple, mottle, and disruptive) and measured the spectral reflectance of the camouflaged pattern and the respective background using a fiber optic spectrometer. We demonstrate that the reflectance spectra of cuttlefish skin patterns correlate closely with the spectra of these natural substrates. Since pigmented chromatophores play a key role in cephalopod color change, we also measured the spectral reflectance of individual cuttlefish chromatophores under the microscope, and confirm the results from a previous publication reporting three distinct colors of chromatophores (yellow, orange, and dark brown) on the animals' dorsal side. Taken together, our results show that the color variations in substrate and animal skin can be very similar and that this may facilitate color match on natural substrates in the absence of color vision.

publication date

  • June 2008