Following the success of the award-winning My Octopus Teacher on Netflix, we thought we should write a blog about camouflage. There are so many marine creatures that use it to survive in the ocean environment: they might be sneaky mimics in their appearance or in the way they move; some employ a painful toxin as protection, while some simply hide to stay invisible. These critters are often the holy grail of divers who see it as a challenge to find them and they are often very, very clever!
Many cephalopods (like octopus, squid and cuttlefish) can deceive predators by changing colour and creating patterns to match their environment. They do this by changing pigment cells in their skin which are called chromatophores. These cells are controlled by the nervous system. Not bad for animals thought to be colour blind! Unbelievably this isn’t their only skill - tiny areas of skin called papilli expand or retract to change texture to mimic their surroundings. Squid and cuttlefish can also produce bioluminescence with light-producing cells called photocytes, found in special organs. They use this to communicate with a mate, scare off prey or to stun their lunch! In an environment where sharks and eels love a tasty cephalopod, 400 million years of evolution has certainly helped their survival.
Deadly stonefish are masters of disguise, even growing algae on their skin to blend in with rocky reefs and corals. They are lazy ambush predators and wait for small fish and invertebrates to pass by them on the sea floor, before inhaling them unawares!
As well as dull camouflage experts, we have to give a shout out to the elaborate, pretty ones too. The teeny tiny pygmy seahorse can be found hiding in the branches of sea fans. Their calcium tubercles (lumps) have a pink or orange hue that adapts to the colour of coral polyps. These 2- centimetre miniatures barely move, blending in so well with their environment that they become almost invisible. Members of the genus Hippocampus, they were discovered in 1969 completely by accident on a sea fan that was brought into a lab for study.
Ornate leafy sea dragons have yellowy-green flowing appendages that resemble seaweed or kelp. They drift with the current in areas rich in vegetation like seagrass and can change colour. The male weedy and ruby sea dragons are a beautiful purple or red hue respectively with spines and less leaf-like protrusions. Sadly, their shallow coastal habitats are at risk and pollution has also affected numbers.
See our list of products below where manufacturers have used camouflage as inspiration in their design.
Aqua Lung Xscape 4/3mm Wetsuit
The navy body and powder blue palm print on the new Aqua Lung ladies Xscape compliments the ocean environment. You will become an ocean advocate for buying one as this wetsuit is made from revolutionary Yulex® instead of neoprene. The composite material is comprised of a natural rubber core layer which is much more eco-friendly than synthetic neoprene (that has a greater impact on the environment). It has also been laminated with water-based glue and a fabric made of recycled plastic bottles. This stretchy, abrasion-resistant suit has a quick-drying inner fleece to keep you warm, an ergonomic cut and silicone seals to reduce flushing. All packaging is plastic-free and comes with a reusable mesh bag that doubles up for collecting rubbish! The men’s version comes in a less stealthy dark olive and red mix, with palm print under the arms and on the right calf.
Mares XR Psycho Calavera Single Backmount Set
While technical divers usually like any colour as long as it’s black, this limited edition backplate, harness and bladder rig is a nice break from the norm. The artwork design was inspired by famous Mexican celebrations, but the colours are like the shiny bioluminescence employed by the cuttlefish. It has an anodised aluminium backplate and will suit any DIR or new technical diver looking for an excellent single tank setup. The set comes pre-assembled, ready to dive and is lightweight enough to be suitable for travel. It also comes with two heavy-duty tank mounting straps with high-quality Mares XR buckles.
The Zoom snorkel is available in 3 mimetic patterns including Camu and Seagreen. Although originally designed for freedivers and the spearfishing community, it is suitable for any application. This ergonomic snorkel has no flashy valves or small parts, a semi-flexible tube and a soft, comfortable mouthpiece which will eliminate jaw fatigue if using for long periods of time.
Scubapro Seawing Nova Gorilla Fins
These army green hinge fins provide the same power and speed as those of the leafy sea dragon! Perfect in demanding conditions, the articulated joint allows the blade to pivot and generate thrust without any drag. A comfortable bungee heel strap and ergonomic foot pocket will reduce leg strain or cramps. The Gorilla’s Monprene durable construction means these fins are virtually indestructible!
Mares Pure Instinct Backpack Camo
The Pure Instinct range was launched in 2018 and is the Mares product line specific to freediving and spearfishing. This anatomical modular backpack arranges weight perfectly and the pockets can hold standard 500g and 1kg weights to a maximum of 4kg. Adjustable, padded shoulder straps feature quick-release buckles for greater security and also if you need to ditch the weights in an emergency. It is available in a stylish camo black with flexible elastic cord for fastening to your belt.