Friday Fractal XLIX: Cephalopods Grok Fractals

It seems that cephalopods, from giant squids and octopi to camouflaging cuttlefish, are all the rage these days. As I've shown before, cephalopods can be quite fractalish (or fractals tend to be tentaclish, take your pick.) I'm not exactly sure why these creatures are so loved these days, but who am I to disagree with popular opinion?

So, for this week's fractal, I took two Carlo Julia sets, and colored them with different variations of epsilon crossing. I then layered these atop a Mandelbrot set, and some fBm "plasma". In other words, this fractal includes just about everything and the kitchen sink. While overall, the fractal is fairly complex, there are relatively few and simple differences between the two "fish". It was actually more difficult to have them facing opposite directions than it was to create radically different coloring patterns.


While I'm quite sure real cuttlefish don't have any problems turning around, they can also easily change colors and patterns to match their background. For example, check out these two, displaying vastly different patterns, but belonging to the same species. (Or so I assume... according to the picture title, they are mating. And no, I'm not just giving in to all of these demands for gratuitous cephalopod sex. It's a pretty picture, too.)


Mating Cuttlefish, as photographed by Colin Teo

Earlier this week, Sb Guru PZ Myers of Pharyngula wrote about some recent research into the mechanisms behind cephalopod camouflage. Like these fractals, the various complex patterns created by a camouflaging cuttlefish are based on simple rules. They cannot see color at all; so, rather than attempting to match the hues we often admire in photographs, the cephalopod chooses its camouflage according to the complexity of the patterns in its immediate vicinity. According to PZ, there are three simple strategies:

The three are responses to the coarseness of the patterns in the environment. If the background is fine grained and simple, blend in by generating a uniform skin pattern that matches the average intensity. If the background is a mixture of small objects of varying intensity, take on a mottled appearance to blend in. And finally, if there are relatively large objects with a fair amount of contrast around, instead adopt a disruptive camouflage scheme, which has the function of breaking up the outlines of the body.

I encourage you to go check out his entire post, which includes pictures showing the different types of patterning, as well as a link to an amazing video.

Cuttlefish photo by Colin Teo. Fractals made by the author using ChaosPro

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Cephalopods are all the rage? Dang, I must be running in the wrong circles these days.

I can really pinpoint which is the biggest crowdsourcing website (in terms of brand recognition). There are always seem to be a new one popping up which I've never heard. This time it's Crowdflower. The learning continues...