Predator Evasion in Cuttlefish


Cuttlefish are frequently posed with the challenge of evading predators in the ocean. Cuttlefish will sometimes abandon camouflaging themselves when faced with a particular predator. They typically use one of two general methods to escape predators if they choose not to camouflage themselves. The two methods they use are visual warning lights and a jet-propulsion retreat (Cuthill).

Visual warning:

Cuttlefish employ this method if the predator will respond to visual warnings. These type of predators are generally teleosts. In this visual warning system, the cuttlefish will put on a spectacular display of flashing lights that usually causes the predator to swim away. If the predator doesn't immediately swim away, the cuttlefish may "wink." Winking is when the cuttlefish exhibits a black dot resembling an eye on its skin. If the predator persists, the cuttlefish may produce twin eye spots. Production of these visual warnings is facilitated by their chromatophores (Cuthill).


Predator Evasion
Night Camouflage
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Giant Australian cuttlefish showing vibrant colors perhaps as a defense mechanism. Image courtesy of Andy Murch (

Jet-propulsion escape:

This escape route is used when the predator doesn't respond well to visual warnings. In this case, the cuttlefish will use their jet-propulsion and ink jets to escape (Cuthill). Jet propulsion occurs when the cuttlefish sucks water into its mantle cavity and then uses its muscles to forcefully push out the water, causing the cuttlefish to accelerate in the opposite direction. Water exits through the funnel, which can move to control the angle of the spray of water ("NOVA," 2007). Simultaneously, the cuttlefish will eject its ink in one of two ways. In the first way it creates a smoke screen of black ink that allows the cuttlefish to escape. In the second way, the ink is released as bubbles that are surrounded by mucus that resembles the cuttlefish shape and size. These ink bubbles essentially act as a decoy, allowing the real cuttlefish to escape ("NOVA," 2007).










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