Our cuttlefish in the Ocean Oddities exhibit can often be found under the soft corals and anemones in their enclosure, but last week two of them were perched atop these two cnidarians. Although capable of matching their surroundings, both animals remained in the contrasting darker coloration seen in both photos. When cuttlefish do express their color and pattern changes, the eyes are where it all starts. Visual input from their environment enters the eyes which then send signals to the optic lobe in the brain. The brain then sends signals to the muscles surrounding the chromatophores, which then compress and stretch out these bags containing yellow, orange, red, brown or black pigments. A second group of structures, that do not contain pigment, are reflective cells responsible for the white patches and the iridescent pinks, yellows, greens, blues and silvers that we often see. When contracted (not being pulled and stretched by their respective muscles) the chromatophores shrink, allowing these underlying reflective cells to show through the skin as white and/or iridescent patches.
Watch a male cuttlefish display his color changing abilities in the video below.
Come visit the Ocean Oddities exhibit at the Aquarium to learn more about our dwarf cuttlefish.