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You're Not Hallucinating. That's Just Squid Skin. | Deep Look

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 Biology   |   Environmental   |   Science
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Octopuses and cuttlefish are masters of underwater camouflage, blending in seamlessly against a rock or coral. But squid have to hide in the open ocean, mimicking the subtle interplay of light, water, and waves. How do they do it?

DEEP LOOK: a new ultra-HD (4K) short video series created by KQED San Francisco and presented by PBS Digital Studios. See the unseen at the very edge of our visible world. Get a new perspective on our place in the universe and meet extraordinary new friends. Explore big scientific mysteries by going incredibly small.

--- How do squid change color?

For an animal with such a humble name, market squid have a spectacularly hypnotic appearance. Streaks and waves of color flicker and radiate across their skin. Other creatures may posses the ability to change color, but squid and their relatives are without equal when it comes to controlling their appearance and new research may illuminate how they do it.

To control the color of their skin, cephalopods use tiny organs in their skin called chromatophores. Each tiny chromatophore is basically a sac filled with pigment. Minute muscles tug on the sac, spreading it wide and exposing the colored pigment to any light hitting the skin. When the muscles relax, the colored areas shrink back into tiny spots.

--- Why do squid change color?

Octopuses, cuttlefish and squid belong to a class of animals referred to as cephalopods. These animals, widely regarded as the most intelligent of the invertebrates, use their color change abilities for both camouflage and communication. Their ability to hide is critical to their survival since, with the exception of the nautiluses, these squishy and often delicious animals live without the protection of protective external shells.

But squid often live in the open ocean. How do you blend in when there's nothing -- except water -- to blend into? They do it by changing the way light bounces off their their skin -- actually adjust how iridescent their skin is using light reflecting cells called iridophores. They can mimic the way sunlight filters down from the surface. Hide in plain sight.

Iridophores make structural color, which means they reflect certain wavelengths of light because of their shape. Most familiar instances of structural color in nature (peacock feathers, mother of pearl) are constant–they may shimmer when you change your viewing angle, but they don't shift from pink to blue.

--- Read the article for this video on KQED Science:
http://ww2.kqed.org/science/2015/09/08/youre-not-hallucinating-thats-just-squid-skin/


--- More great DEEP LOOK episodes:

What Gives the Morpho Butterfly Its Magnificent Blue?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29Ts7CsJDpg

Nature's Mood Rings: How Chameleons Really Change Color
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp9W-_W8rCM

Pygmy Seahorses: Masters of Camouflage
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3CtGoqz3ww

--- Related videos from the PBS Digital Studios Network!

Cuttlefish: Tentacles In Disguise - It’s Okay to Be Smart
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcwfTOg5rnc

Why Neuroscientists Love Kinky Sea Slugs - Gross Science
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGHiyWjjhHY

The Psychology of Colour, Emotion and Online Shopping - YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THTKv6dT8rU


--- More KQED SCIENCE:

Tumblr: http://kqedscience.tumblr.com
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/kqedscience
KQED Science: http://ww2.kqed.org/science


Funding for Deep Look is provided in part by PBS Digital Studios and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Deep Look is a project of KQED Science, which is supported by HopeLab, The David B. Gold Foundation; S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation; The Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation; The Vadasz Family Foundation; Smart Family Foundation and the members of KQED.

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