Cuttlefish are the lesser-known (yet perhaps even more awesome!) cousins of octopi and squid. They are famous for their color displays and camouflaging abilities. Naturally, cuttlefish can mimic both the color and texture of complex environments. It’s clear that these fascinating animals use their eyes to determine the color they should turn, but it’s less clear how cuttlefish determine what texture they should adopt. By comparing actual textured substrate to pictures of of the same substrate, these scientists determined that cuttlefish use their vision and not their sense of touch to determine how they want to texture their skin using their papillae (skin organs they can erect like human nipples) in order to blend with their surroundings. Now will someone please show these guys a picture of box of Legos, because a Lego-cuttlefish would be awesome!
“Cephalopods (octopus, squid and cuttlefish) are known for their camouflage. Cuttlefish Sepia officinalis use chromatophores and light reflectors for color change, and papillae to change three-dimensional physical skin texture. Papillae vary in size, shape and coloration; nine distinct sets of papillae are described here. The objective was to determine whether cuttlefish use visual or tactile cues to control papillae expression. Cuttlefish were placed on natural substrates to evoke the three major camouflage body patterns: Uniform/Stipple, Mottle and Disruptive. Three versions of each substrate were presented: the actual substrate, the actual substrate covered with glass (removes tactile information) and a laminated photograph of the substrate (removes tactile and three-dimensional information because depth-of-field information is unavailable). No differences in Small dorsal papillae or Major lateral mantle papillae expression were observed among the three versions of each substrate. Thus, visual (not tactile) cues drive the expression of papillae in S. officinalis. Two sets of papillae (Major lateral mantle papillae and Major lateral eye papillae) showed irregular responses; their control requires future investigation. Finally, more Small dorsal papillae were shown in Uniform/Stipple and Mottle patterns than in Disruptive patterns, which may provide clues regarding the visual mechanisms of background matching versus disruptive coloration.”