Effects of stimuli shape and polarization in evoking deimatic patterns in the European cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis, under varying turbidity conditions Academic Article uri icon


  • Cuttlefish possess the complex ability to identify approaching threats and then to selectively express the appropriate defense. We examined the visual cues used by Sepia officinalis cuttlefish during predator detection and the responses they selected. Using computer-generated stimuli, we set out to quantitate the deimatic responses to artificial looming stimuli of different shapes and contrasts. Defensive behavior gradually intensified as geometrical shapes resembled an image of a fish. Therefore, in addition to an object’s size or its sudden increase in size, cuttlefish use form recognition to identify a threat. Cuttlefish demonstrated equal performance in predator detection trough clear water when presented with intensity versus polarization contrasts. However, when the water turbidity increased, the cuttlefish still detected looming fish shapes based on polarization contrast even when intensity information alone did not suffice. These results demonstrate the interplay between intensity and polarization information transmission and processing in the spatial domain. As nectobenthic organisms, cuttlefish probably experience low visibility conditions on a regular basis. The ability to see further into turbid water and to better detect an approaching object would be beneficial for their survival.

publication date

  • January 1, 2013