Smart and Stealthy Cuttlefish
by Frank Sherwin, M.A. *
Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) belong to an order of cephalopods called Sepioidea. They appear suddenly in the fossil record as cephalopods. "Ancestral cephalopods" are unknown. Using hydropropulsion as their primary locomotion, cuttlefish are quite mobile and extremely agile.
Many zoologists consider cuttlefish to be the most intelligent invertebrate species, which is quite a problem from an evolutionary perspective. Evolutionists view intelligence evolving through social interactions and long life spans. But cuttlefish are cephalopods. They don't have a complex social structure and live only about a year—the lifespan of a butterfly. How did cuttlefish become so bright?
In addition, these animals have a kind of visual "superpower," in that they can "see" information in light waves we humans cannot. Sometimes electric fields, of which light is composed, can become preferentially aligned in a certain direction, a phenomenon called polarization. Cuttlefish have been designed to sense when the direction of polarized light changes. Other animals have polarized vision, but the cuttlefish's appears to be the best: It's in high definition.1
Cuttlefish have the unfortunate quality of being delicious to oceanic predators such as sharks. This is why these "chameleons of the sea" are also designed with camouflage—and a recently discovered electrical stealth technology.2 They emit a weak electrical field (a tiny artifact really, about 75,000 times fainter than a AAA battery) from four parts of its body. A shark can detect these microvolt emissions using its array of sensitive detectors studding its snout.
What's a cuttlefish to do? Upon sensing a shark it immediately freezes and covers its body openings (its mouth and the siphon it uses for hydropropulsion) with its arms while clamping down on its mantle (the large fold of soft tissue on its back). This results in a drop in the current the cuttlefish emits. Reducing the cuttlefish's tell-tale electrical signal lowers the chances of being discovered... and eaten.
The appealing cuttlefish therefore has two ways to evade being consumed: visual camouflage operating in less than a second, and the recently discovered electrical stealth.
Both stealth camo and technology requires a stealthy designer.
- Temple, S. High definition polarization vision discovered in cuttlefish. Bristol Vision Institute News. Posted on bristol.ac.uk on February 24, 2012, accessed December 20, 2015.
- Duke University. Camouflaged cuttlefish employ electrical stealth: Electrical masking used in addition to visual camouflage. ScienceDaily. Posted on sciencedaily.com on December 2, 2015, accessed December 20, 2015.
*Mr. Sherwin is Research Associate, Senior Lecturer, and Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on January 11, 2016.