Don’t let the name fool you. Flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi) look anything but flashy most of the time. Images and videos of the marine mollusks flashing bright purple and yellow hues litter the internet, perpetuating the idea that these animals are constantly putting on a show in the wild. But a new study proves just the opposite: Flamboyant cuttlefish spend most of their time looking like a pile of mud.
“These animals have superb camouflage,” says Roger Hanlon, a marine biologist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. Specialized cells and structures in their skin allow the animals to instantly morph into ostentatious patterns, as well as blend in.