Cuttlefish and Octopus -
The Kings of camouflage


Masters of Disguise

Cephalopods such as the Octopus, Cuttlefish and Squid have the awesome abilities to change color to either seemingly disappear into their environments or to produce stunning displays.

How do they do it? That's what we'll unveil, albeit, shallowly.

Here's a 4 and a half minute, excellent short documentary that shows Octopus, Cuttlefish & Squid skin color changing ability and provides a little explanation.



The amazing skin painter

Other than changing color, Cephalopods can create intricate design patterns with diversity and speed unmatched on Earth.

How fast? Within a second. Even milliseconds. The reason is their skin's color properties are controlled directly by their brain.

They are highly versatile. They can go anywhere, match their body's color and pattern to multiple backgrounds.

Comparatively, color change observed on amphibians & reptiles are slow and limited.


Pigments and reflectors

The secret of Cephalopods changing color at will lies in what goes on in their multi-layered skin. We'll just talk about 2 of them, the pigments and one of the reflectors.

Below the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin) are layers of chromatophores. Chromatophores are organs with sacs of color pigment surrounded by muscles. Chromatophores can contain red, orange, yellow, black, or brown pigments. These chromatophores are the main color changing cells in Cephalopods.

When the muscles around a chromatophore are relaxed, the surface area of the sac is small and the color is not shown.

When the muscles contract, the surface area becomes much greater and the color of the sac can be seen. All of this is under the control of their advanced nervous system.

The different colors in all the chromatophores layers combine visually to produce a wide array of colors, similar to the way pixels are colored on a computer screen or television screen.

So you can look at chromatophores as screen pixels and chromatophores combine to form images similar to the way pixels form images on computer or hand phone screens.

Underneath the chromatophores is a layer mirror-like cells called iridophores which can appear green, blue, pink, silver and gold.

Iridophores are reflecting cells and serve as reflectors. They give cephalopods a metallic or iridescent sheen under some circumstances.

It is the combination of pigments and reflectors in unique ways that creates all the rich and varied colors and spectacularly diverse range of appearances.


Is that all?

Cephalopods paint their skins at will. This skin functions quite like the screen you are staring at now. Imagine having your skin functioning like your TV, computer or hand phone screen and you control the colors and patterns on it with your mind. That is how UNBELIEVABLE their 'electric' skin is.


But, is that all?


I'm not belittling their almost supernatural ability but is that all they do to camouflage themselves?


The Third Dimension

Watch the video below filmed by marine biologist Roger Hanlon for a closer look at the other dimension of camouflage



One more time with commentary



The wonder of nature. Breathtaking!


Think back on the footages of Cuttlefishes and Octopuses masquerading as Algae. They looked like Algae because their body surfaces were textured like Algae as well.

There was also the Octopus's 'moving rock' trick. It turns itself into a rock (visually) and slides across the Ocean floor with its coveted body completely exposed in broad daylight! It looks like a rock not just in color and pattern only, it displays the texture of a rock.


The other dimension here is the THIRD one.


Cuttlefishes and Octopuses don't just do 2D camouflage, they perform 3D camouflage! (Squids do not have 3D camouflage capability)

Because of this, many don't call this ability camouflaging anymore. They call it... shape shifting.

Cuttlefishes and Octopuses are at times called Shape Shifters.

Let's uncover the Shape Shifters' secret.


Inflatable Muscles

Just like their fabulous skin, Cuttlefishes and Octopuses have unearthly muscles.


'Inflatable' muscles.


Their muscles can be 'deflated' to show a smooth texture or 'inflated' to produce bumpy, rippled, or leafy textures.

This is a good time to look at examples: more wonderful work by Roger Hanlon



Cephalopods control skin colors through the control of chromatophores.

Cuttlefishes and Octopuses control texture through the control of tiny papillae muscles. These papillae vary in size and shape.

Each papilla has a fixed maximum size but their shape and degree of expression can be controlled.

Cuttlefishes and Octopuses look at the background and command its skin to produce colors, patterns and brightness that blend in. At the same time, command their papillae muscles to mimic the texture of the Algae, plant, coral reef or sandy bottom around them.

Being so flexible, Octopuses will even contort their bodies to a shape that blends in even better.


This is simply out of this world!


Who would have thought this is what they are capable of when they are just ordinary dishes on dining tables?


Octopus Symbolism

The Octopus's skill in using ink clouds and camouflaging/shapeshifting is very representative of this animal and Octopus jewelry are worn to express these symbolisms.


Transformation and Adaptability

The ability to change color, pattern, texture and shape gives the octopus the symbolism of transformation and adaptability.

The Octopus blends in with its surroundings to escape predators and facilitate its own hunting.

Octopus jewelry is wonderful for somebody who yearns adaptability to deal with the complexities and twists in their environment. It is also brilliant for someone who aspires transformation to a new self, a better self.



The Octopus is identified as the master of disguise, shapeshifter and illusionist.

With its magical skin and bizarre muscles, this magician disappears and reappears right before our eyes.

Its mystery connotation deepens when it further shrouds reality by leaving dark ink clouds, spellbinding as it vanishes.

Do you know somebody mysterious? A gift of Octopus necklace is a suitable expression of your admiration.



Sterling Silver Octopus Earrings DE 4204

Do you like octopus jewelry or buy them as gifts?

If so, have a look at our lovely silver octopus earrings collection!



Agalil Team



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