Friday Squid Blogging: Camouflage in Squids

How squids and other cephalopods camouflage themselves:

A clue to how cephalopods disguise themselves so quickly came to Dr. Hanlon when he and his colleagues reviewed thousands of images of cuttlefish, trying to sort their patterns into categories. “It finally dawned on me there aren’t dozens of camouflage patterns,” he said. “I can squeeze them into three categories.”

One category is a uniform color. Cephalopods take on this camouflage to match a smooth-textured background. The second category consists of mottled patterns that help them hide in busier environments. Dr. Hanlon calls the third category disruptive patterning. A cuttlefish creates large blocks of light and dark on its skin. This camouflage disrupts the body outlines.

It’s not often you can find research on the intersection of security and squid.

Posted on February 22, 2008 at 4:09 PM12 Comments


wjl February 22, 2008 5:24 PM

Nice correlation! I’ve always wondered why this wonderful squid blog always posts about security Monday through Thursday….

Anonymous February 22, 2008 6:04 PM

I wonder how many human ‘discoveries’ could have been found simply by observation. Could you patent something if it was just a copy of something animals do? The disruptive patterning sound very much like the hatchetfish – (see the section on counterillumination).

Uniform colour – paint the bottom of the aircraft sky blue.

Mottled pattern – throw a camo net over something –

Disruptive patterning – paint “odd views” on the hull of your ship —

Sedgequill February 22, 2008 8:27 PM

I’d like to know whether the camouflage changing is entirely autonomic or whether cephalopod will enables choice.

Lis Riba February 23, 2008 9:35 AM

Watching the video with the checkerboard, my husband and I had the same Warner-Bros-inspired reaction:

“Can’t… Do… Plaid!”

But then we realized that wasn’t necessarily so…

Erek Dyskant February 23, 2008 3:29 PM


That depends all upon your views of whether animals have will or not, what it is that defines will. My personal opinion is that the squid have a neural pathway between their optic nerves, their central nervous system, and their coloring locations, so they recognize a pattern as either solid, complex, or something else, which triggers their pigment to change color.

Others would argue that any living thing operates at a higher level of thought…who knows? Go ask a squid.

Hao Ye February 24, 2008 1:10 AM

Hanlon’s paper in the May 2007 issue of Current Biology suggests that spatial frequency of the background plays a key role in choosing between smooth vs. mottled vs. disruptive.

moz February 24, 2008 2:48 AM


Various cephalopods (Carribean reef squid e.g.) communicate with their patterns so there is some level of “concious” control beyond merely copying the environment.

beautiful February 24, 2008 12:22 PM

Get a life! does it look like a Dell manufactured rig? More like home made, amateur job. And where it could be concealed in a laptop? Stop spreading FUD

nerdboy February 24, 2008 10:05 PM

Sorry, I really didn’t know. I don’t know a whole lot about computers and I’m trying to learn as much as I can any way possible. Obviously it was extremely ill advised of me to make a post like this without further research and I hope you will accept my apology.

Nicholas Jordan March 5, 2008 2:12 PM

@Hi, this site describes a hardware keylogger incorporated on a brand new Dell computer. Does this happen regularly?

Just go ask them, I am sure that anyone who would install a keystroke logger on a retail machine would inform reliably on most requests for information (on that issue ) with the facts. There would be no reason not to and concealing such would contradict the simplest evaluation of the matter.

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