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Antipredator responses, especially those of open-ocean squid, have been seldom studied in the natural environment. Sepioteuthis sepioidea, observed by snorkellers near the shore in early morning/late afternoon, produced an average of eight moves of over 1m per hour, apparently mostly antipredator behaviours. Close approaches by herbivorous parrotfish elicited no response in 74% of encounters; otherwise, squid produced agonistic zebra stripes or startle-mantle-dots skin patterns. Predatory bar jack fish caused flight but not zebra displays, and squid usually paled and fled quickly (66%) from snapper. The speed of approach was the best predictor for flight and display responses to snapper, but for bar jack and parrotfish, the relative fish size and distance were the predictors for escalated responses. Paired dorsolateral mantle dots were produced when squid approached the sea bottom or hunted outside the group and in reaction to fish approaches; 56% of these were to the very common parrotfish. Reactive pairs of spots were selected from four possible mantle locations and they were significantly likely to be directional towards fish, presumably as startle/warning, but not directed towards conspecifics as indicators of predator presence. Thus the evasion techniques of the cephalopods and their ability to produce different display patterns on the skin show how an intelligent animal modifies an otherwise simple decision about which pairs of spots to select from four possible mantle locations and whether to flee from potentially dangerous animals.


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