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Jul 04, 2012, 12.56 PM IST
AUSTRALIA-CUTTLEFISH:In Sydney harbour, courting cuttlefish dress to deceive
SYDNEY (Reuters) - In a tricky display of courting derring-do, a species of cuttlefish living in Sydney harbour woos its mate and fools rivals at one and the same time, all by the colours it flashes.
Researchers at Macquarie University said the male of the "Mourning Cuttlefish," or Sepia Plangon, in Sydney harbour can display both male and female colours at the same time - in essence, seeming to be both.
"Showing his true male colours towards the female to woo her, he will at the same time mimic female colours to the rival male to disguise the courtship," researcher Martin Garwood told Reuters.
The behaviour was detected only when a group consisted of two males and one females - and in those circumstances it took place 39 percent of the time.
The male cuttlefish display a striped zebra pattern while the female has a circular mottled pattern of white, yellow, black and green.
The courting male can show both at the same time, positioning himself between the female and the rival male and then waiting until his wooing succeeds, often as long as an hour - a considerable time in the wild.
Cuttlefish seduction can't be rushed, Garwood added.
"It can take a while to win the female's heart. By deceiving the rival male the deceptive male can get the job done without being interrupted or challenged," he added.
"This behaviour where they can show male and female colours simultaneous has not been seen before... that's pretty unique."
Despite the vast and obvious differences, this behaviour brings to mind the complex social system and hierarchy of human beings, Garwood said.
"Cuttlefish living such a complex little social life where they have to deceive each other and figure a smart way to get a girl, there's kind of a similarity between those two social systems," he added.
(Reporting by Pauline Askin, editing by Elaine Lies)
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