Night Camouflage in Cuttlefish



Before Hanlon et al., conducted their experiment on night camouflage in cuttlefish, there was no documentation of cephalopod camouflage at night. Hanlon et al., wanted to observe the night behavior of cuttlefish, so they used remotely operated vehicles equiped with video cameras to study the Giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama) at night. They observed the Giant Australian cuttlefish on communal spawning grounds on a temperate rock reef in southern Australia (Hanlon et al., 2006).

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Giant Australian cuttlefish. Images courtesy of Andy Murch (

Camouflage Patterns
Choosing the best camouflage
How does it work?
Predator Evasion
Color Blindness
Camouflage in Juveniles
Night Camouflage
Literature Cited
External Links



The cuttlefish stopped sexual signaling at dusk and settled to the ocean floor, quickly adapting their body patterns to camouflage themselves to the particular background they were on. During the day only 3% of the cuttlefish displayed some type of camouflage, whereas at night 86% of the cuttlefish were camouflaged (see Figure 12 below). All three basic camouflage patterns, uniform, mottled, and disruptive were displayed at night. The majority of the cuttlefish displayed either mottled or disruptive patterning (see Figure 13 below). This was most likely due to the fact that the Giant Australian cuttlefish lives in temperate waters that tend to be turbid. As seen in the European cuttlefish, a mottled or disruptive pattern is more suitable for low visibility environments (see choosing the best camouflage page). Hanlon et al., concluded that nocturnal predators provided the selective pressure for camouflage at night (Hanlon et al., 2006).




Figure 12 (adapted from Hanlon et al., 2006). Percent of cuttlefish camouflaged during the day vs. at the night. In this figure the blue represents camouflage exhibited and red represents no camouflage exhibited. About 86% of the cuttlefish were camouflaged at night and, whereas only 3% of them were camouflaged during the day.



Figure 13 (adapted from Hanlon et al., 2006). Number of cuttlefish observed displaying the three basic camouflage types. A large portion of the cuttlefish observed displayed either the mottled or disruptive body pattern.





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