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Fish camouflage – How does it work? March 12, 2006

Posted by Stephan Becker in Coral Reef Organism Behaviour, Uncategorized.

Tropical fish come in a large array of colors as most scuba divers and
snorklers are ready to testify. Although you might already know that changes
in color and markings are common between the juvenile lifestage and
adulthood for members of the same species (oh.. you did not? – welcome then
to the amazing world of coral reef organisms!). Few of us actually know how
exactly this works and what the reasons are for these color changes. Well,
let me assure you, even scientists don’t have all the answers to this
question, but some mysteries have been elucidated and make diving and
snorkeling all the more enjoyable for those among you with an insatiable
thirst for knowledge.

Interestingly enough, some tropical fish do not only change color between
different life stages (juvenile – adult), but are capable of changing color
almost at will… At will? Well, almost… actually, it’s more a response to
the time of day (night colors – day colors), a specific activity (mating), a
threat (hiding), or even mood (ever played ‘find the color of my diving
suit’ with a trumpet fish?).

www.beautifuloceans.com – Help us spread the word, please CLICK HERE.

So how do they do it? Tropical fishes are covered with irregular shaped
cells called chromatophores that contain pigments. The color saturation of
any chosen pigment area is modified by impulses coming from nerve endings
connected to these chromatophores, but can also be triggered by hormones.
Fish can either concentrate the pigments
in the center of each individual cell – making it appear paler or, in
the contrary, expand the pigmentation over a larger area and thus intensify
the color.

I will always remember that one dive on a Barbadian reef in 2002 when,
observing a trumpet fish floating upside-down besides me for about 15
minutes, I suddenly noticed a frantic color change happening over the entire
body of my playmate… a real firework of colors… until it came to a halt
when it matched exactly the color combination of my wetsuit – a luminescent
turquoise green with greyish-blue stripes… the charming little creature was trying to
interact with me – and matched the color perfectly! I can tell you, underwater
experiences like this really change the way you perceive coral reefs and make
you want to protect its magnificent inhabitants…

Wish you all a beautiful day,

Do you have interesting stories about coral reef organism behaviour to share? I would love to hear them – Please use the “add a comment’ button below.



1. Hayden - March 2, 2009

I love stuff like that. I watch a lot of nature programmes and im always dazzled by natures little surprises.

I am trying to track down a study on the effects of ‘chromatophorotropin’ on human epidermal cells.

Someone must have tried that? A concentrated dose of Chromatophorotropin may be the key to making your boss disappear!

Nice article btw. Sharm El Sheik in Egypt is great for divers, it’s incredible!!!

2. ty - April 22, 2009

u didnt tell how it changes or how it works

3. roxy - June 15, 2009


4. Jennifer - December 8, 2009

I love nature to thank you!!!!

5. Car - January 11, 2010

me 2!!! i so wanna help save the world, but i’m not even old enough to touch a steering weel 😦

6. someone - February 20, 2010

its awesome

7. Roxy Salomon - May 20, 2010

Hello there, I could not find a way to email you, and so I really hope that you read this comment. I own a website about ladies wetsuits, and wondered if you would like to exchange links with me. I have entered my contact address if you choose to get in touch. Thank you.

8. Quik Silver - May 20, 2010

Hello there, I could not find a way to contact you, and so I really hope that you read this comment. I own a website covering ladies wetsuits, and thought you might like to swap links with me. I have entered my contact address if you choose to get in contact. Thank you.

9. saniyya faheem - September 8, 2010

thank you for giving the information!!

10. Kaylah - September 14, 2010

You can’t even see it barly. I wish I could save them too but I am too young also.

11. grace - October 11, 2010


12. Caroline - October 11, 2010

this is not very cool

13. Mark - October 11, 2010

this is not very cool either

14. Peanut - October 11, 2010

this is so lame……… Oh Wait I mean wow the can camo sweet………..NOT…………!!!!!!

15. Caroline - October 11, 2010

you tell em Torin….Peanut

16. Bartlet - October 11, 2010

Wahahahahahahahahahaha i’m boreddddddddd wohoohohohoohohohohohohohohoohohoohohohoohoh yeh

17. Caroline - October 11, 2010

that was not me. he’s going crazy!!!!!

18. Bartlet - October 11, 2010

lalalalalallallalalalllall wawawwawwawawawawwawawwawawwaw ca popo lamozoobaca

19. Caroline - October 11, 2010

aaahhhhhh!!! he’s out of his mind!!!! he’s just babbeling over here.

20. Bartlet - October 11, 2010

cappppppppppooooooooooooooooppppppppppppoooooooooooooo wackowacko food?

21. Caroline - October 11, 2010

did you guys have a fun time going to bed at 8:30?


22. Bartlet - October 11, 2010

all nunu all nunu i didn’t do any of it

23. Caroline - October 11, 2010

that poop face, he told me to say it

24. Bartlet - October 12, 2010

what the poo she did it all her self i did not do any of it and i didn’t tell her any of it!

25. Caroline - October 12, 2010

such a heffalump!!!!

26. Peanut - October 18, 2010

hahahahahahahahaha tal kabout a heffalump look at yourself nunun you pooo head poor little michael

27. Peanut - October 18, 2010

hay i dont care if i go to bed at 8:30 at least i um um MAN IM LOST

28. Peanut - October 25, 2010

soooooooooooooooo nu nu looks like a little trouble maker

29. Peanut - October 26, 2010

bla bla bla bla ???????????????

30. Peanut - October 26, 2010


31. Peanut - October 26, 2010

hum dum

32. Peanut - October 26, 2010

nu nu should be punished for her crime ( What do you think michael)

33. Caroline - November 1, 2010

what crime? what have i done?

34. Peanut - November 1, 2010

vandawism!!!!!!!!!! you horrible soul

35. Bartlet - November 8, 2010

i’m confused

36. Caroline - November 8, 2010

vandalism??!! horrible?! just look your hamster, that big blubbering baby, he’s nasty too.

37. Bartlet - November 8, 2010

yo hotpocket wast crackalakin

38. Peanut - November 9, 2010

Sorry………………… I Am Just going to ZIP MY LIP

39. Caroline - November 9, 2010

you better, or i’ll unleash my anger

40. ALLROBOO - November 10, 2010

Caroline is an idiot, Peanut has mental issues, and Bartlet is both……idiot & has mental issues!!!!!!!!!

41. ALLROBOO - November 10, 2010

1st 11 comments….good!!
from 11 to 39…. BAD
#40 IS AWESOME!!!!!!

42. Bartlet - November 15, 2010

i’m very repolsed

43. Caroline - November 15, 2010

what have i done to deserve your destain?

44. Peanut - November 15, 2010


45. ALLROBOO - November 29, 2010

EVERYONE SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
ESPECIALLY YOU PEANUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

46. Bartlet - November 29, 2010


47. Bartlet - December 6, 2010

Who are you telling us to be quiet we can talk all we want!!!!!!

48. Peanut - December 6, 2010

Ya EAT IT you Big Blubber Buffer

(its an alliteration)

49. Peanut - December 6, 2010

Allroboo ?What kind of name is that what are you like a fat harley davidson fanatic

50. Bartlet - December 8, 2010

yoou geno get busted

51. ALLROBOO - December 13, 2010

Hey Peanut ya you Peanuckle head. No I’m not a fat harley davidson fanatic. I do ride a motorcycle.
but the ALLROBOO is part my name. Can you figure my name out?

P.S. I’m a GIRL by the way and I’m 11 ha! ha! ha!

52. ALLROBOO - December 13, 2010

Sorry, I just turned 6 ha! ha! ha!

Bartlet - January 10, 2011

yah right

53. ALLROBOO - December 13, 2010

Hey Bartly you shut the heck up!! No, I can say what I want to say. And stay OUT of mine and Peanuts conversation O.K.!!!!

P.S. what kind of name is Bartly???

54. ALLROBOO - December 13, 2010

I’m listening to Sugarland the best band ever!!!!!!!!!
Settlin’ rite now

55. ALLROBOO - December 13, 2010

Hey Caroline, whats the “did you guys have a fun time going to bed at 8:30?” are you guys friends or somthing?? Maybe your STUPID FACEBOOK FREAKS!!!!!!!!

56. ALLROBOO - December 13, 2010


57. Bartlet - January 3, 2011

What’s Your problem? We live near by and my name is not Bartlet

58. ALLROBOO - January 4, 2011

well then bartlet why don’t you walk if your so close by???????????

59. Bartlet - January 10, 2011

we do

60. Bartlet - January 10, 2011

you’re a Fuey face

61. Bartlet - January 17, 2011

u r so stinky i can smell u from where i live

Born Beautiful - May 3, 2012

who are you talkin to ?

Born Beautiful - July 25, 2012

meaning look who i can smell from here

62. ALLROBOO - March 2, 2011

well where do you live BUTHEAD!!!!!!!!

Born Beautiful - July 27, 2012

you are an idiot allroboo so shut up

63. Jesus Freak - November 15, 2011

how do fish use coral reef?

Rachel - February 23, 2012

to camoflauge them selves

64. Vincent - May 30, 2012

Vincent – It is good to see comments that relate to the pictures. It’s also disapointing to see comments that have nothing to do with science.

Born Beautiful - July 27, 2012

nerdy freak u sound like johnathan park all over again

65. Born Beautiful - July 25, 2012


SchoolJammer123 - November 8, 2012

OH PUHLEEEEEEZ!!!!!!!!!!! Does this have ANYTHING to do with nature?! I was given time on the Web for my school and I thought maybe I could learn something from the comments…and guess what I learnt?! Nothing but bad words!!! Now can I get on with my work…..? Thank you!!!

66. Justme - June 6, 2013

shut the fuck up everyone

67. Justme - June 7, 2013

really i got on here and all i was thinking was what the hell all u buttheads are so immature

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