Vertical visual features have a strong influence on cuttlefish camouflage

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Ulmer, Kevin M.
Buresch, Kendra C.
Kossodo, M. M.
Mathger, Lydia M.
Siemann, Liese A.
Hanlon, Roger T.
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Cuttlefish and other cephalopods use visual cues from their surroundings to adaptively change their body pattern for camouflage. Numerous previous experiments have demonstrated the influence of two-dimensional (2D) substrates (e.g., sand and gravel habitats) on camouflage, yet many marine habitats have varied three-dimensional (3D) structures among which cuttlefish camouflage from predators, including benthic predators that view cuttlefish horizontally against such 3D backgrounds. We conducted laboratory experiments, using Sepia officinalis, to test the relative influence of horizontal versus vertical visual cues on cuttlefish camouflage: 2D patterns on benthic substrates were tested versus 2D wall patterns and 3D objects with patterns. Specifically, we investigated the influence of (i) quantity and (ii) placement of high-contrast elements on a 3D object or a 2D wall, as well as (iii) the diameter and (iv) number of 3D objects with high-contrast elements on cuttlefish body pattern expression. Additionally, we tested the influence of high-contrast visual stimuli covering the entire 2D benthic substrate versus the entire 2D wall. In all experiments, visual cues presented in the vertical plane evoked the strongest body pattern response in cuttlefish. These experiments support field observations that, in some marine habitats, cuttlefish will respond to vertically oriented background features even when the preponderance of visual information in their field of view seems to be from the 2D surrounding substrate. Such choices highlight the selective decision-making that occurs in cephalopods with their adaptive camouflage capability.
Author Posting. © Marine Biological Laboratory, 2013. This article is posted here by permission of Marine Biological Laboratory for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Biological Bulletin 224 (2013): 110-118.
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Biological Bulletin 224 (2013): 110-118
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