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How can a colorblind animal change its colors to blend into the background?
Date:5/16/2011

U.S. MILITARY ACADEMY, WEST POINT, N.Y.How could a colorblind animal know how to change its skin color to blend into its surroundings? And what will the animal's predator "see," looking at its prey before and after it hides?

These provocative questions are addressed in article published today by a collaborative team from the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Mass., and the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. The article, "Hyperspectral imaging of cuttlefish camouflage indicates good color match in the eyes of fish predators," appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"What makes camouflage effective? The answer is that it's an opinion, and that opinion completely depends on who is being asked. Our work presented in this paper takes the field a step closer to quantifying camouflage effectiveness," says J. Kenneth Wickiser, Asst. Prof. in the Department of Chemistry and Life Science at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point.

Understanding the principles of camouflage is not only important in biology, but also provides insights into architecture, advertisement, and defense applications.

For this study, the team studied camouflage in the marine animals known as coleoid cephalopods (octopus, squid, and cuttlefish). Camouflage is the primary defense in these animals and their rapidly adaptable body patterning system is among the most sophisticated in the animal kingdom. The expression of camouflage body patterns in cuttlefish is a visually driven behavior. Previous studies have shown that certain background variablessuch as brightness, contrast, edge and size of objects, etc.are essential for eliciting camouflaged body patterns. However, cephalopod eyes lack color perception, thus the vexing question of how they achieve effective camouflage while being colorblind still remains.

Moreover, camouflage studies suffer from the inability to assess the effectivenes
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Contact: Jim Fox
jim.fox@usma.edu
845-938-2006
Marine Biological Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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