Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Revealed: Secrets of the Camouflage Masters - New York Times

From the New York Times
Cuttlefish can also use camouflage to deceive other cuttlefish, Dr. Hanlon and his colleagues have found. A male cuttlefish will typically guard several females from other challengers. He does not often have physical fights. It is enough for him to put on a powerful visual display.

But if another male disguises its skin to look female, he can sneak up to the guarded female and mate. The sneaky male’s disguise may be so good that the other male may try to guard him as part of his harem. …

To use disruptive patterning, cuttlefish need to make sure that their color blocks are on the same scale as the objects around them. Dr. Hanlon has yet to figure out how they measure that.

“They’re doing it in some magical way we don’t yet understand,” he said.

Dr. Hanlon and his colleagues are also puzzled by the many camouflage colors of the cuttlefish, which have a single type of pigment in their eyes. Humans have three.

Experiments in Dr. Hanlon’s lab have shown that they are color blind. They see a world without color, but their skin changes rapidly to any hue in the rainbow. How is that possible?

“That’s a vexing question,” he said. “We don’t know how it works.”

No comments: