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Pharaoh cuttlefish expertly mimic hermit crabs

Camouflage is common in cephalopods like squid, octopuses, and cuttlefish, but these pharaoh cuttlefish, hatched in a lab for a University of Ryukyus study led by Kohei Okamoto, camouflage in a surprising way: They pretend to be hermit crabs despite the fact that weren’t exposed to any in the lab. From National Geographic:

Hermit crabs are filter feeders and don’t pose a threat to cuttlefish prey, which include small fish and mollusks. If cuttlefish pretend to be crabs, it could allow them to get closer to their prey without detection, Okamoto said. Mimicking crustaceans would also give off the impression of a hard shell, which might protect cuttlefish from other hungry sea animals.

When placed in hunting scenarios, the cuttlefish that appeared to imitate hermit crabs captured twice as many fish as those that didn’t…

“Are they learning from actual direct observation or is this programmed into genetics? [This] kind of brings up an interesting question about intelligence and complex behaviors.”

Observe some real hermit crabs and more cephalopods, including this video from SciFri: Caring for Cuttlefish.

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