“It’s smart skin – it’s all wired up.“ – Roger T. Hanlon
Cuttlefish blending in with a checkerboard
Photo Credit: The New York Times – Copyright 2008 – All rights reserved
Stories about Giant Squid, animal mimics and weird marine phenomena intrigue me. Hence, the idea for this Friday post started after reading a recent Science section article from The New York Times, written by Carl Zimmer and published on Feb 19 2008 about scientific investigations and experiments by Dr. Roger T. Hanlon, a senior aquatic scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA and his associates.
Dr. Hanlon and colleagues have spent decades studying an exceptional group of Cephalopods – principally cuttlefish, squid and octopus – who, though color-blind themselves, possess the ability to “hide in plain site” from predators by changing their skin color pattern and appearance to blend in with the surrounding environment. Biologists admit that they do not yet know exactly how these intelligent, gentle but short-lived creatures assess their physical surroundings to change the pigments in their skin to reflect those underwater patterns.
In a short video found on YouTube (linked below) from the NOVA Science series on PBS, Dr. Hanlon tells us that cuttlefish have large brains, possessing over 1,000,000 chromatophores (pigment containing, color-processing cells) which explains in part their ability to change color in a kaleidoscopic way.
Dr. Hanlon has written a chapter from the Encylopedia of Life on Australian Giant Cuttlefish (link here).
Also link to a list of recent publications from the Hanlon Laboratory at MBL.
There are more than 780 living species of Cephalopods. For additional information on these marine invertebrates including videos and many photos of specimens, check out CephBase and National Center for Cephalopods. These sites are hosted by University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB).
A free online textbook entitled “Cephalopods of the World” (ftp link), is where the following photo and illustration were found:
Species Sepia orbignyana
Photo/Illustrations Credit – FAO.org – Copyright 2001-2008 – All rights reserved
What an exceptional group of marine animals!