Cuttlefish use visual cues to determine arm postures for camouflage

Alexandra Barbosa, Justine J. Allen, Lydia M. Mäthger, Roger T. Hanlon

Abstract

To achieve effective visual camouflage, prey organisms must combine cryptic coloration with the appropriate posture and behaviour to render them difficult to be detected or recognized. Body patterning has been studied in various taxa, yet body postures and their implementation on different backgrounds have seldom been studied experimentally. Here, we provide the first experimental evidence that cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis), masters of rapid adaptive camouflage, use visual cues from adjacent visual stimuli to control arm postures. Cuttlefish were presented with a square wave stimulus (period = 0.47 cm; black and white stripes) that was angled 0°, 45° or 90° relative to the animals' horizontal body axis. Cuttlefish positioned their arms parallel, obliquely or transversely to their body axis according to the orientation of the stripes. These experimental results corroborate our field observations of cuttlefish camouflage behaviour in which flexible, precise arm posture is often tailored to match nearby objects. By relating the cuttlefishes' visual perception of backgrounds to their versatile postural behaviour, our results highlight yet another of the many flexible and adaptive anti-predator tactics adopted by cephalopods.

Footnotes

    • Received January 29, 2011.
    • Accepted April 20, 2011.
    View Full Text