Male Cuttlefish Mimics a Female To Mate in the Presence of a Larger Male

In a brazen clip from the BBC documentary Blue Planet II, narrator David Attenborough explains how a clever cuttlefish temporarily disguised himself as an uninterested female so he could mate in the presence of a vastly larger and very territorial male named Goliath. Other males tried to mate in Goliath’s presence with bruising results. This creative male, however, knew how to play the game to get just what he wanted.

The female is now displaying a white stripe along her side nearest Goliath. It’s a clear signal that she no longer wants to mate with him. It’s all the encouragement that the little male needs. He’s going to have to use trickery. He tones down his colours and tucks in his arms. …Goliath is deceived. The small male now displays a white stripe, just like the real female, to deter his advances. He slips beside her and they mate.

Cuttlefish Mimics Female
Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.