Monday, January 3, 2011

Cephalopods Part One: The Color and the Shape

Cephalopods are an order of mollusks containing squids, octopuses, cuttlefish and kin. The name means "head footed" and comes from the fact that these animals have their arms (or feet) near their mouth and eyes (or head).

Besides horseshoe crabs cephalopods are probably the world's coolest animals. I think that's been scientifically documented. Why, you ask? Well, observe:

Both of these octopuses are utilizing (probably the coolest) common feature of cephalopods. They have specialized cells in their skin called chromatophores that allow them to change both the color and texture of their skin. Funny thing is that cephalopods, as far as I know, are all color blind. So how in the heck do they know what colors to change?

Well new research has shown that they actually have opsin in their skin. Opsin is a molecule that resides in our retinas. When light waves strike the molecule it changes shape and this change begins the neural cascade that results in perception. Instead of having their surroundings taken in by the eye, processed by the brain and then translated to their skin cephalopods' skin are taking in the surroundings directly and changing in response.

Stay tuned for more cephalopod posts coming up this month!


1 comment:

  1. Keep that cephalopod stuff coming! Love the videos.