Graded behavioral responses and habituation to sound in the common cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis

J.E. Samson, T.A. Mooney, S.W.S. Gussekloo, R.T. Hanlon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Sound is a widely available and vital cue in aquatic environments yet most bioacoustic research has focused on marine vertebrates, leaving sound detection in invertebrates poorly understood. Cephalopods are an ecologically key taxon that likely use sound and may be impacted by increasing anthropogenic ocean noise, but little is known regarding their behavioral responses or adaptations to sound stimuli. These experiments identify the acoustic range and levels that elicit a wide range of secondary defense behaviors such as inking, jetting, and rapid coloration change. Secondarily, it was found that cuttlefish habituate to certain sound stimuli. The present study examined the behavioral responses of 22 cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) to pure-tone pips ranging from 80-1000 Hz with sound pressure levels of 85–188 dB re 1 µPa rms and particle accelerations of 0-17.1 m.s-2. Cuttlefish escape responses (inking, jetting) were observed between frequencies of 80-300 Hz and at sound levels above 140 dB re 1 µPa rms and 0.01 m.s-2 (0.74 m.s-2 for inking responses). Body patterning changes and fin movements were observed at all frequencies and sound levels. Response intensity was dependent upon stimulus amplitude and frequency, suggesting that cuttlefish also possess loudness perception with a maximum sensitivity around 150 Hz. Cuttlefish habituated to repeated 200 Hz tone pips, at two sound intensities. Total response inhibition was not reached, however, and a basal response remained present in most animals. The graded responses provide a loudness sensitivity curve and suggest an ecological function for sound-use in cephalopods.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4347-4355
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • equal-loudness contours
  • acoustic startle
  • water movements
  • squid
  • cephalopods
  • fish
  • predators
  • sensitization
  • lolliguncula
  • sensitivity


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