Camouflage in Juvenile Cuttlefish


Do juvenile cuttlefish have the ability to camouflage themselves like their adult counterparts? One study conducted by Hanlon and Messenger looked at juvenile European cuttlefish camouflage in both the laboratory and in the wild. The cuttlefish studied were between 0 and 5 months of age (Hanlon and Messenger, 1987). Hanlon and Messenger found that the juveniles were essentially miniature versions of the adults and had nearly as much body patterning capabilities. This is unlike other young cephalopods, such as squid and octopi. There are several reasons for the sophistication of camouflage in juvenile cuttlefish. First, the area in the brain of cuttlefish that controls patterning is almost fully developed at hatching. This allows juveniles to have complex camouflage capabilities because the brain plays a key role in determining cuttlefish camouflage (Hanlon and Messenger, 1987). Second, juvenile cuttlefish have the majority of the behavioral components present in adults at hatching. Juveniles have 26 out of 34 chromatic components, all of the textural and locomotor components, and 6 of the 8 postural components (Hanlon and Messenger, 1987).

Camouflage in Juveniles
Night Camouflage
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Juvenile Sepia officinalis. Image courtesy of Dr. Osorio (Shohet et et al., 2007).

Although juvenile cuttlefish can display sophisticated body patterns, body patterning does change with age. One important difference between juvenile and adult cuttlefish is that juveniles don't have leucophores or iridophores. These cells allow for more complex patterns and are integral components of several adult patterns. One such pattern is the zebra display exhibited by males during sexual communication (Hanlon and Messenger, 1987). Juvenile cuttlefish primarily display their body patterns for camouflage purposes, whereas adults use their patterns for both signaling and camouflage. The signaling can be between cuttlefish, as in mating displays, or it can be used as a warning signal to predators (Hanlon and Messenger, 1987).










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