The Loh Down On Science

Cross-Dressing Cuttlefish

That’s one fishy-looking cross-dresser!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet the cuttlefish. Like its octopus cousin, its skin is packed with pigment-filled sacs it uses to change its look on demand. Predator problem? Make like a rock and blend into the reef. But the cuttlefish has taken this to, well, a gender-bending, level.

So says Culum Brown, from Macquarie University in Australia. He observed cuttlefish by Scuba. What did he learn?

Males are total drag queens! Manly yet so feminine at the same time. Literally. When a male finds himself between a female and another male, he strikes two poses--one on each side of his body. The female sees a studly tiger-striped pattern that screams Hey, cuttle-bunny! Want a real man?! His other side? A pretty leopard print that mimics female coloration. Dude looks like a lady--that is, a non-threat to the rival. This way, cross-dressers can get the girl without a fight.

It also means that cuttlefish are spineless two-faced liars that change their message depending on who they’re targeting. You could call them … Poli-fish-ans! Or not.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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