Search Results for: cephalopods

Squid’s “Passing Cloud” camouflage technique mimicked in artificial skin


Cuttlefish illustrating the “Passing Cloud” pattern. Image (c) “Hiding the Squid! Official”.

Are we one step closer to an invisibility cloak?

Researchers at the University of Bristol have demonstrated how to create artificial skin that can mimic the squid. The squid, as well as other cephalopods like the octopus and cuttlefish, can blend into their surroundings to hide from predators or sneak up on prey.  The squid’s “Passing Cloud” camouflage technique (i.e.,  bands of color spread as waves across the skin) was simulated in the experiment. According to the researchers the implications are more than just avoiding your landlord, they noted that “It could also be used for signaling purposes, for example search and rescue operations when people who are in danger need to stand out”. More patterns are being studied in the future as well.

Monday Inspiration: Persian Ceiling by Dale Chihuly

This past weekend I took a road trip to Richmond, VA and was thrilled to be introduced to the ethereal artistry of the glassworks created by Dale Chihuly at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In particular from this exhibit, the piece ‘Persian Ceiling‘ is an experience I wanted to share. As I gazed up into the illuminated glass ceiling with the gleaming and luminescent art densely piled up (practically to the sky!),  I was certain I had been transformed to another point in time.

It was as if I was witness to the Great Barrier Reef at its apex in species diversity and brilliance of color. I wondered how he created such movement in still objects – spectacular! No doubt I was head-over-heels impressed due to the beautiful daylight that was paired with the exhibit space. I also found it incredibly playful how Chiluly interspersed echinoderms, mollusks, and cephalopods to give the illusion that you’re indeed walking under the sea (see if you can spot them in the images below). If you have the opportunity, you cannot go wrong with investigating the work of Chihuly. If you’re lucky enough to see his work first hand, it will surely brighten your day and have your feeling inspired.



Images (c) Beach Chair Scientist

Getting to know three … Bivalve edition

Ever know instinctively that some animals are ‘related’ and just can’t pinpoint their similarities? On the third day of every month I explain three features that are common among three animals of a certain group. Of course, generally each group has more than three representatives and even  many more similarities and then even more differences, but I am going to choose three similarities that link threes to keep it simplified. This month is focused the mussel, scallop, and clam. These three animals are all part of the bivalve group which is the second largest group of mollusks. The largest group of mollusks are the gastropods. Mollusks are well-known for their soft, unsegmented bodies and shell covering (although cephalopods do not have this feature). Check out the image below to learn what the featured animals all have in common.




Longfin inshore squid pulses to Cypress Hill

No one can deny that cephalopods are smart and elusive creatures, and here is yet another example that proves the point. Scientists at Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA did experiments on the axons of the longfin inshore squid and were excited to see a vibrant color-changing spectrum of the squid’s brown, red, and yellow chromatophores. The chromatophores each have muscles that contract when stimulated revealing the pigment below. Check out this video from Backyard Brains to see the results {Fair warning: wear headphones if you’re in the office!}.

Also, you can check out this video to learn more about the cockroach leg stimulus protocol they used for the experiment.

Octopi this …

In honor of the Beatles (on today the 10th anniversary of George Harrison‘s death) I thought I would feature the incredibly intelligent animal from one of my favorite songs, Octopus’s Garden. The song (released in the US on September 1, 1969) was the second song written by Ringo Starr for The Beatles (but, as my husband pointed out George Harrison did help him write the song).

It’s said Ringo Starr wrote the song while on vacation with his family in Sardinia after learning octopi like to hide under rocks. Pretty cool, right? Here are five more fun facts about these amazing cephalopods that I think Ringo Starr would think are equally as fascinating:

  1. There is an endangered species of octopi that spends part of its life in the rainforest.
  2. The largest octopus is the giant Pacific octopus (up to 30 feet) and the tiniest octopus is the Wolfi octopus (one and a half centimeters).
  3. A female octopus is known as a hen.
  4. Octopi have three hearts.
  5. Octopi can change color and mimic other animals.


One last thing, if you have not had a chance to purchase your Octopi Wall Street t-shirt I suggest you do soon since they make great holiday gifts!

D.C. embraces giant quahogs!

A few days ago the Washington Post announced that the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. is now home to 10 giant clams of the species Tridacna crocea. You may think the National Zoo is a peculiar place for clams especially since the National Aquarium now has a branch in D.C., however the clams are suitably placed in the invertebrate exhibit and I highly recommend you spend time there if you ever make it to the National Zoo. It is one of the quieter exhibits, housed in air conditioning (what’s not to love about that?), and has an exhibit for chambered nautilus, a BCS species favorite.

With all that being said, it seems as though if you want to learn about T. crocea, smallest of all the giant clams species, you’ll have to come to D.C. (or simply read the article in the Post linked above)!

So, I am going to take this opportunity to brief you on a real giant clam. This posts features the largest and most elaborately colored of all the giant clam species, Tridacna gigas (pictured right). This being the largest of all living bivalves, T. gigas holds it own at a whooping 500 lbs, 3 ft 10 in length and 30 in wide. The average male American black bear is about that size. At 500 lbs, it’s no wonder they cannot shut their two shells together (It’s like when I to pack for a weekend vacation).

These hermaphrodites, found in the Indo-Pacific, are planktonic when young and sessile as adults. The diet of these placid creatures is algae as they are filter feeders.

There is concern among conservationists that T. gigas is being exploited as they are harvested for food (a delicacy in Japan) and is a popular acquisition in the aquarium trade.

I wonder what creature would win if pitted against each other: the giant clam, T. gigas, or the largest sea urchin, Sperosoma giganteum? Maybe that deserves further thought in a future post.
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Image (c)

Did the squid warn of an earthquake?

Is it possible that squid can warn us of earthquakes? I say yes.

It was pointed out in the The Yomiuri Shimbun earlier this month that fishermen saw in increase of their catch of squid right before several major earthquakes, including this recent one in March 2011.

The article stated that “According to Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry statistics, squid fishermen in Tokushima brought in 491 tons of the cephalopods in 1994–just before the Hanshin quake–which was 1.4 times the 1993 catch and 1.9 times the 1992 catch.”

This is certainly an impressive increase in catch. As it was also when “There were amazing hauls of squid just before the 1946 Nankai Earthquake,” one veteran fisherman from southern Tokushima said. And, most recently the correlation can be noted when just before the March 11 earthquake  “Squid fishermen in Tokushima Prefecture hauled in a bumper catch”.

Also, interesting was a small squid stranding right before a small earthquake in La Jolla, California in 2009.

Some questions have been asked that “if this increase in catch does occur right before a major earthquake has it ever been noted that there is a sharp drop in catch right after?” My instinct is to say that there would be a sharp decline in the catch since squid would not be as easy to catch. It seems to me that since this cephalopod is typically found near the bottom of the ocean floor (close to the Earth’s crust) they must be moving closer to the surface of the ocean where fishermen can catch them easier. According to a Tulane University website,  since earthquakes “occur when energy stored in elastically strained rocks is suddenly released. This release of energy causes intense ground shaking in the area near the source of the earthquake”. It would seem as though squid can detect the grounding shaking phenomenon prior to the rest of us since it happens in their own backyard first.

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