To Be Seen or to Hide: Visual Characteristics of Body Patterns for Camouflage and Communication in the Australian Giant Cuttlefish Sepia apama

S. Zylinski*, M. J. How, D. Osorio, R. T. Hanlon, N. J. Marshall

*Corresponding author for this work

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

37 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

It might seem obvious that a camouflaged animal must generally match its background whereas to be conspicuous an organism must differ from the background. However, the image parameters (or statistics) that evaluate the conspicuousness of patterns and textures are seldom well defined, and animal coloration patterns are rarely compared quantitatively with their respective backgrounds. Here we examine this issue in the Australian giant cuttlefish Sepia apama. We confine our analysis to the best-known and simplest image statistic, the correlation in intensity between neighboring pixels. Sepia apama can rapidly change their body patterns from assumed conspicuous signaling to assumed camouflage, thus providing an excellent and unique opportunity to investigate how such patterns differ in a single visual habitat. We describe the intensity variance and spatial frequency power spectra of these differing body patterns and compare these patterns with the backgrounds against which they are viewed. The measured image statistics of camouflaged animals closely resemble their backgrounds, while signaling animals differ significantly from their backgrounds. Our findings may provide the basis for a set of general rules for crypsis and signals. Furthermore, our methods may be widely applicable to the quantitative study of animal coloration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-690
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Volume177
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2011

Keywords

  • camouflage
  • communication
  • signaling
  • image structure
  • cephalopods
  • vision
  • SPATIAL-FREQUENCY
  • NATURAL IMAGES
  • DISRUPTIVE COLORATION
  • PERCEPTION
  • EVOLUTION
  • ECOLOGY
  • SIGNALS
  • CONTRAST
  • SYSTEM
  • OFFICINALIS

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