Smart Skin and Devious Cephalopods in Tomorrow’s NY Times

For years, fellow scienceblogger PZ Myers has taught us all well why we ought to adore squid, octopuses, and other cephalopods. But I came to a new degree of appreciation when I traveled up to Woods Hole to spend some time with the biologist Roger Hanlon. Hanlon studies how cephalopods disguise themselves, and boy do they ever. Right in front of your eyes, sitting in a little tub of water, the animals can practically disappear. Or, if they want to scare you, they turn a chocolately brown with bright stripes.

After my visit, I wrote a profile of Hanlon, which is the lead article in tomorrow’s Science Times in the New York Times. Along with the article, you can also check out a video made by Erik Olsen, who joined me up in Woods Hole. (I gawk, the cuttlefish perform…)

The story is bigger than cephalopods (all due respect to PZ)–Hanlon believes that the same fundamental rules of camouflage followed by cephalopods govern all animals that hide from other animals. I’m curious to see where Hanlon goes with this hypothesis. We even got to talking about Monet, Anselm Adams, and other artists, and Hanlon showed how they use the same tricks as cuttlefish to create a rich, three-dimensional experience from a flat picture.

If you’re hankering for more, here are a few links…

Hanlon’s awesome pirated octopus camouflage video

A man-made gel that mimics cuttlefish skin

Hanlons’s three-category model of camouflage (pdf)

[Photograph courtesy of Roger Hanlon]

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