Saturday, March 6, 2010

Can an Octopus change its spots?

Last time we talked octopus, I showed you a classic vid of an octopus changing color. Watching Planet Earth the other night, I noticed a little squid embryo performing the same trick. It got me wondering: how do they DO that?

Well it turns out people have been studying this. Here's a cute video of a baby octopus embryo doing the camouflage dance:

The 'chromatophores' in the title are specialized skin/pigment cells that are the key to the whole thing. Watch starting at 0:18, where you see individual cells. Inside each cell is a spot of color, like a floating drop of ink; the cell changes color by spreading out the spherical, 3-D droplet into a 2-D hexagon that fills the entire cell.

Humans don't have chromatophores, so we can't change color. Yet.

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