If you think of a creature that can change its appearance at will to blend in with its surroundings, you might be thinking of some kind of mythical being. But there are critters that can pull this off right here on Earth, and they might be the last ones you’d expect.
Cuttlefish, squid, and various other cephalopods have this ability. They can actually control the color, pattern, and iridescence of their skin, thanks to tiny sacs of pigment called chromatophores. The chromatophores can expand and contract on command. When they expand, the pigment is visible, and when they contract, the color recedes into a tiny dot.
When the chromatophores expand and contract, they produce twinkling, shimmering effects that make the animal look like it’s covered in glitter.
But this ability isn’t just a neat party trick. It’s used for camouflage, which allows the cephalopods to sneak up on prey and avoid detection by predators. The latter is especially crucial to their survival, as cephalopods have no outer shells to protect them. Their best method of defense is to hide.
When the chromatophores contract, the skin becomes white.
Watch this otherwise unassuming squid in action here:
The natural world truly is a fascinating place. Even if squishy creatures from the deep aren’t your favorite, you have to admit that their ability to mimic just about every color under the sun (and the sea) is pretty impressive. And they never run out of things to wear!