Dynamic Skin Patterns in Cephalopods

Martin How, Mark Norman, Julian Finn, Wen-Sung Chung, N. Justin Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
408 Downloads (Pure)


Cephalopods are unrivalled in the natural world in their ability to alter their visual appearance. These mollusks have evolved a complex system of dermal units under neural, hormonal and muscular control to produce an astonishing variety of body patterns. With parallels to the pixels on a television screen, cephalopod chromatophores can be coordinated to produce dramatic, dynamic, and rhythmic displays, defined collectively here as ‘dynamic patterns’. This study examines the nature, context, and potential functions of dynamic patterns across diverse cephalopod taxa. Examples are presented for 21 species, including 11 previously unreported in the scientific literature. These range from simple flashing or flickering patterns, to highly complex passing wave patterns involving multiple skin fields.
Original languageEnglish
Article number393
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2017


  • dynamic patterns
  • cephalopod
  • communication
  • camouflage
  • motion
  • chromatophore
  • passing wave
  • skin


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