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  • Cited by 12
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

9 - Rapid adaptive camouflage in cephalopods


Camouflage versatility is probably no better developed in the animal kingdom than in the coleoid cephalopods (octopus, squid, cuttlefish). These marine molluscs possess soft bodies, diverse behaviour, elaborate skin patterning capabilities and a sophisticated visual system that controls body patterning for communication and camouflage (Packard 1995; Hanlon & Messenger 1996; Messenger 2001).

Cephalopods form a key component of the food chain and are preyed upon by nearly all of the major carnivores in the ocean – an enormous variety of marine mammals, diving birds and teleost and elasmobranch fishes. Their primary defence is visual camouflage (Hanlon & Messenger 1996). The diversity of visual systems represented by these predators is quite extraordinary and the camouflaged body patterns of cephalopods have evolved in response to these selective pressures. Benthic shallow-water cephalopods have rapid adaptive camouflage so that they can move about freely (foraging, finding mates, etc.) in multiple ecohabitats and avoid visual predation by tuning their camouflage to nearly any visual background in their natural ranges.

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