Quantification of cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) camouflage : a study of color and luminance using in situ spectrometry

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Akkaynak, Derya
Allen, Justine J.
Mathger, Lydia M.
Chiao, Chuan-Chin
Hanlon, Roger T.
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Animal coloration
Spectral angle
Color match
Body pattern
Fish predator
Cephalopods are renowned for their ability to adaptively camouflage on diverse backgrounds. Sepia officinalis camouflage body patterns have been characterized spectrally in the laboratory but not in the field due to the challenges of dynamic natural light fields and the difficulty of using spectrophotometric instruments underwater. To assess cuttlefish color match in their natural habitats, we studied the spectral properties of S. officinalis and their backgrounds on the Aegean coast of Turkey using point-by-point in situ spectrometry. Fifteen spectrometry datasets were collected from seven cuttlefish; radiance spectra from animal body components and surrounding substrates were measured at depths shallower than 5m. We quantified luminance and color contrast of cuttlefish components and background substrates in the eyes of hypothetical di- and trichromatic fish predators. Additionally, we converted radiance spectra to sRGB color space to simulate their in situ appearance to a human observer. Within the range of natural colors at our study site, cuttlefish closely matched the substrate spectra in a variety of body patterns. Theoretical calculations showed that this effect might be more pronounced at greater depths. We also showed that a non-biological method (“Spectral Angle Mapper”), commonly used for spectral shape similarity assessment in the field of remote sensing, shows moderate correlation to biological measures of color contrast. This performance is comparable to that of a traditional measure of spectral shape similarity, hue and chroma. This study is among the first to quantify color matching of camouflaged cuttlefish in the wild.
Author Posting. © The Author(s), 2012. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Springer for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Comparative Physiology A 199 (2013): 211-225, doi:10.1007/s00359-012-0785-3.
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