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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2008 Apr;194(4):405-13. doi: 10.1007/s00359-007-0311-1. Epub 2008 Jan 5.

Changeable cuttlefish camouflage is influenced by horizontal and vertical aspects of the visual background.

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Institute of Biomedical Sciences Abel Salazar, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal.

Erratum in

  • J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2008 Apr;194(4):415. Litman, Leonild [corrected to Litman, Leib].


Cuttlefish change their appearance rapidly for camouflage on different backgrounds. Effective camouflage for a benthic organism such as cuttlefish must deceive predators viewing from above as well as from the side, thus the choice of camouflage skin pattern is expected to account for horizontal and vertical background information. Previous experiments dealt only with the former, and here we explore some influences of background patterns oriented vertically in the visual background. Two experiments were conducted: (1) to determine whether cuttlefish cue visually on vertical background information; and (2) if a visual cue presented singly (either horizontally or vertically) is less, equally or more influential than a visual cue presented both horizontally and vertically. Combinations of uniform and checkerboard backgrounds (either on the bottom or wall) evoked disruptive coloration in all cases, implying that high-contrast, non-uniform backgrounds are responded to with priority over uniform backgrounds. However, there were differences in the expression of disruptive components if the checkerboard was presented simultaneously on the bottom and wall, or solely on the wall or the bottom. These results demonstrate that cuttlefish respond to visual background stimuli both in the horizontal and vertical plane, a finding that supports field observations of cuttlefish and octopus camouflage.

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