Featured Image Credit: Kohei Okamoto, Haruhiko Yasumuro,Akira Mori & Yuzuru Ikeda
By Sarah Sharkey
This guy had me completely fooled, I thought that the creature in front of me was a hermit crab of some kind but it was actually a cuttlefish!
Why is this cuttlefish acting like a crab? Researchers at the University of Ryukyus have hypothesized that these cuttlefish are acting like crabs in order to catch more fish.
It makes sense to imitate a crab, because crabs are filter feeders and would not want to eat any of the fish that cuttlefish prey on. The fish may swim right by the cuttlefish in disguise, which will allow the cephalopod to catch dinner quite easily.
They may also be disguising themselves to protect themselves from their own predators. By imitating the crab, they appear to have a hard outer shell to predators, because absolutely no predator enjoys snacking on a hard shell.
When these pharaoh cuttlefish were placed in hunting scenarios, those that imitated hermit crabs did better than those who did not. The crab imitators caught twice as many crabs!
The researchers are trying to determine if this is a learned behavior or if this is something that is pre-programmed into their genetics. Cuttlefish are well known for camouflaging, but this is on a new level that has not been seen before.
Scientists will keep working to learn more about this interesting behavior.