University of Sussex
kelman_et_al_2008.pdf (669.67 kB)

A review of cuttlefish camouflage and object recognition and evidence for depth perception

Download (669.67 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 14:39 authored by Emma J Kelman, Daniel Colaco OsorioDaniel Colaco Osorio, Roland J Baddeley
Cuttlefishes of the genus Sepia produce adaptive camouflage by regulating the expression of visual features such as spots and lines, and textures including stipples and stripes. They produce the appropriate pattern for a given environment by co-ordinated expression of about 40 of these `chromatic components'. This behaviour has great flexibility, allowing the animals to produce a very large number of patterns, and hence gives unique access to cuttlefish visual perception. We have, for instance, tested their sensitivity to image parameters including spatial frequency, orientation and spatial phase. One can also ask what features in the visual environment elicit a given coloration pattern; here most work has been on the disruptive body pattern, which includes well-defined light and dark features. On 2-D backgrounds, isolated pale objects of a specific size, that have well-defined edges, elicit the disruptive pattern. Here we show that visual depth is also relevant. Naturally, cuttlefish probably use the disruptive pattern amongst discrete objects, such as pebbles. We suggest that they use several visual cues to `identify' this type of background (including: edges, contrast, size, and real and pictorial depth). To conclude we argue that the visual strategy cuttlefish use to select camouflage is fundamentally similar to human object recognition.


Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Published version


Journal of Experimental Biology




Company of Biologists



Page range


Department affiliated with

  • Biology and Environmental Science Publications

Full text available

  • Yes

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date


First Open Access (FOA) Date


First Compliant Deposit (FCD) Date


Usage metrics

    University of Sussex (Publications)


    No categories selected