Week 7/Cephalopods/Joseph Racca

This week I will focus on how cephalopods, as special guest speaker Siddarth Ramakrishnan covered in his presentation, adapt to the environment in which they are in.

The Indonesian Mimic Octopus

Cephalopods, squids, octopus, and cuttlefish included, really are artists in disguise masking themselves from the predators that prey on them, but looking at it from the standpoint of two cultures, they use science as their mechanisms of defense.  They use a technique which many, such as the U.S. military, and little children, and chameleons, use today to ‘hide’ and protect themselves from others, it is a technique called camouflage.  Camouflage is a chemical process that requires the consciousness of a cephalopod.  In Roger Hanlon’s piece “Cephalopod dynamic camouflage” he mentions: “The cephalopod ability to change appropriately requires a visual system that can rapidly assess complex visual scenes and produce the motor output - the neurally controlled body patterns - that achieves camouflage.”   As with the video shown in  class, this change in skin pigmentation makes the octopus virtually undetectable to the human eye.  It puts a twist on the saying “It’s only skin deep” and to an extent disproves that saying.  The process of changing/altering skin pigmentation takes brain power, also know as consciousness, which Ramakrishnan focused his presentation on.

cephalopods: octopus, cuttlefish, and squid

 It takes a true artist, such as the cephalopod, to be able to change the colors and patterns of it’s body.  Although sometimes they can’t alter their body patterns to exactly match their surroundings, they do a extraordinary job of ‘painting’ or rather ‘re-painting’ themselves in order to protect themselves.  Hanlon says, “[W]ith their keen vision and sophisticated skin - with direct neural control for rapid change and fine-tuned optical diversity - they move where they wish and can adapt their body pattern for appropriate camouflage against a staggering array of visual backgrounds.”  Sophisticated skin, as Hanlon calls it, whereas I see the cephalopod’s skin as a canvas, that can perpetually have a new work of art on it in a blink of the eye.

Rapid Adaptive Camouflage

What was interesting that I found on YouTube was that some cephalopods not only can alter their skin pigmentation, but they can also mimic other sea creatures.  For example in this YouTube video (The Indonesian Mimic Octopus), the Indonesion Mimic Octopus mimics a sea snake, and two fish.  ”This octopus is able to copy the physical likeness and movement of more than fifteen different species, including sea snakes, lionfish, flatfish, brittle stars, giant crabs, sea shells, stingrays, jellyfish, sea anemones, and mantis shrimp.”  This shows that the cephalopods, specifically the mimic octopus of Indonesia, are even more conscious of their surroundings and have better adapted to mimicking in order to protect themselves.

An Artist Disguised in Science

And considering the two cultures, the sciences and the arts, the cephalopods are the perfect example of taking the two cultures and using them as one, using them separately, and using them in increments together.  And even though camouflage, as used by the cephalopod as a method of concealment from potential threats, visually to me, the work of the cephalopods, a masterpiece even, are appealing and mind-boggling at the same time.

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Crash Octopus
Just a little side note, artists also use cephalopods in art as their subjects and many examples or on the blog called Crash Octopus.
www.crashoctopus.com
“Cephalopod Dynamic Camoflauge” by Roger Hanlon
http://www.mbl.edu/mrc/hanlon/pdfs/hanlon_currentbiol_2007.pdf

One Response to “Week 7/Cephalopods/Joseph Racca”

  1. admin says:

    Great work. 9.5/10

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