A lovely thought, and it only just missed out to hip hop dance moves – 44% of the audience voted for the nice costume. Although by using the word ‘nice’ I was perhaps being a little misleading… the ‘costume’ that this animal dons actually more readily brings the words ‘deceptive’, ‘dishonest’ and ‘bloody genius’ to mind…
The Giant Australian Cuttlefish (Sepia apama)
Here in Australia, winter marks a huge gathering of giant cuttlefish at the bottom of our continent – all with the intent to create some more baby cuttlefish. The problem is that the blokes far outweigh the sheilas. For every one female there are typically four males (although it can be as many as 11!) and this means competition is fierce.
If you’re a little fella you’re not going to have much luck winning over a female, especially one being guarded by a larger male. Their solution is to (sort of) wear a nice costume … They dress up as a lady.
Female cuttlefish have a mottled brown colour and shorter arms, which small males can easily imitate by changing colour and tucking in their arms. This allows small males to sneak past larger males, and then, when the larger males are distracted… BAM. They can turn back into their boy-self and mate with her.
Some call it deceitful. I call it an ingenious strategy to still pass on your genes despite your physical shortcomings. Sometimes brains wins over braun.
Hanlon, R. T., Naud, M., Shaw, P. W., & Havenhand, J. N. (2005). Behavioural ecology: Transient sexual mimicry leads to fertilization. Nature, 433(7023), 212. doi:10.1038/433212a