Sunday, February 24, 2008

Secrets of cuttlefish camouflage

Secrets of the Camouflage Masters. Cuttlefish seem to be able to camouflage themselves against any sort of background - rocks and pebbles, corals, even checkerboards. Robert Hanlon of the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory has classified the different cuttlefish camouflage patterns and shown that they fall into three broad categories - uniform colour, mottled colour, and disruptive patterns (like stripes and spots). According to the article: "What he learned from cephalopods may apply throughout the animal kingdom. The fact that cephalopods may need just three camouflage categories could mean that there are just a few basic ways to fool predators." That puts a new spin on the age old problem of animal camouflage and concealment. The question to ask might not be 'why are these animal so good at blending into the background' but rather 'why are we (or why are predators) so bad at spotting these particular kinds of patterns against the background?' A predator-centered approach might need to bring in theories of cognition and pattern-recognition.

One puzzling problem remains, though. Cuttlefish are colour blind yet they can adopt different colours in their camouflage. How do they manage to do so? No one yet knows....

1 comment:

lekowala said...

Yo, nice one dude. Maybe they can detect different wavelengths that may be correlated to the colours.