Cephalopod dynamic camouflage: bridging the continuum between background matching and disruptive coloration. Academic Article uri icon


  • Individual cuttlefish, octopus and squid have the versatile capability to use body patterns for background matching and disruptive coloration. We define--qualitatively and quantitatively--the chief characteristics of the three major body pattern types used for camouflage by cephalopods: uniform and mottle patterns for background matching, and disruptive patterns that primarily enhance disruptiveness but aid background matching as well. There is great variation within each of the three body pattern types, but by defining their chief characteristics we lay the groundwork to test camouflage concepts by correlating background statistics with those of the body pattern. We describe at least three ways in which background matching can be achieved in cephalopods. Disruptive patterns in cuttlefish possess all four of the basic components of 'disruptiveness', supporting Cott's hypotheses, and we provide field examples of disruptive coloration in which the body pattern contrast exceeds that of the immediate surrounds. Based upon laboratory testing as well as thousands of images of camouflaged cephalopods in the field (a sample is provided on a web archive), we note that size, contrast and edges of background objects are key visual cues that guide cephalopod camouflage patterning. Mottle and disruptive patterns are frequently mixed, suggesting that background matching and disruptive mechanisms are often used in the same pattern.

publication date

  • February 27, 2009