There is a camo pattern for virtually every conceivable terrain or situation, and it’s often confusing and frustrating for us simple-minded humans to figure out which pattern, out of the dozens most of us have in our closets, we need to wear on a given day. Too bad we’re not all cuttlefish. They’ve pretty much got that “what camo today?” question down pat…

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Here’s a tongue-twister for you: Crafty cuttlefish can complete contours to carefully choose camouflage.What this means, without all the alliteration, is that the visual systems of these squid-like creatures are more sophisticated than previously realized. In fact, cuttlefish can pick the perfect camouflage even without seeing the entirety of what they intend to blend in with, much as humans can translate simple line drawings into meaningful information.

_”If you think of our ability to make sense of really basic visual information like cartoons and sketches and children’s pictures, we’re really good at just using ‘edge’ information and making sense of it,” said Sarah Zylinski, the author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University. “It seems that for cuttlefish, too, edges are really important in making sense of the environment.”

The researchers used 18 captive-born cuttlefish of the species Sepia of?cinalis as guinea pigs, giving them several alternative backgrounds to see how the animals reacted. One background was gray dotted with white outlines of circles about 0.2 inches (6 millimeters) in diameter. This background reliably triggers the cuttlefish to put on “disruptive” camouflage — essentially a chunky, blocky pattern that would help the animal blend into a surface of large pebbles. In another background, small fragments of the circle outlines were removed, leaving gaps in a shape that is still suggestive, to the human eye, of a circle.

Sure enough, the cuttlefish responded to that pattern with disruptive camouflage, too. But when presented with the same circle fragments rotated so that they no longer looked like pieces of a continuous circle, the creatures put on a different, finer-grained camo pattern better suited for a small-scale background such as sand. That means that despite the gaps, the cephalopods could perceive the first fragmented circles as whole circles, much like a human would.
So here’s a legal question: if you took a cuttlefish, with its ability to radically alter its coloration, and placed it against a background of the latest and/or greatest officially licensed camo pattern, would that cuttlefish be engaging in patent infringement?