“Natural Born Hustlers” on PBS Features Roger Hanlon’s Camouflaging Cuttlefish

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Two cuttlefish touch torsos. Credit: Roger Hanlon

Two cuttlefish touch at their fins. Credit: Roger Hanlon

Cuttlefish are astonishingly good at using camouflage to hide from their predators, so it’s right they take a starring role in a new PBS mini-series called “Natural Born Hustlers.”

“Meet the planet’s greatest animal hustlers – the con artists, impersonators, and thieves – animals that will do whatever it takes to survive,” the show’s introduction promises. MBL Senior Scientist Roger Hanlon, who studies how cuttlefish achieve their lightening-fast camouflage, is featured in the series’ first episode, called “Staying Alive.”

Cuttlefish have “perhaps the most beautiful skin on planet Earth. It can change color and texture to match almost any surroundings,” Hanlon says. Remarkably, the skin contains light-detecting proteins (opsins) that are usually found in the retina, Hanlon discovered. Does the cuttlefish skin “see” its surroundings, allowing it to rapidly adapt and blend in?

Watch the cuttlefish’s “invisibility cloak” at work and other amazing survival strategies in the animal world here, in the episode online.