Watch a Cuttlefish Camouflage Itself in an Underwater Living Room
BY Anna Green
November 17, 2015
In the ocean, the cuttlefish is a master of disguise. The mollusk, which belongs to the same class as squids and octopuses, can change its shape, color, and texture to blend in with seaweed, sand, coral, and pretty much any other underwater scenery it encounters. But how would a cuttlefish fare in a less familiar setting? Would it be able to camouflage itself against the more structured patterns seen in a human being's living room, for instance?
The BBC’s Richard Hammond set out to answer that question in an episode of Miracles of Nature. Hammond designed an underwater living room set, complete with a checkerboard floor, striped walls, and a patterned couch. Then, he released a cuttlefish into the room, and observed how it adapted to its surroundings. The experiment proved that cuttlefish are, indeed, masters of camouflage—though they probably wouldn’t win a game of hide-and-seek against a human competitor. Check it out above.
If you’ve been thinking of adding a four-legged friend to your brood and are deciding whether a shelter dog is right for you, consider this: Some of history’s most amazing pooches—from four-legged movie stars to heroic rescue dogs—were found in animal shelters. In honor of Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, here are 25 shelter dogs who made it big.
Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.
The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.
“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”
The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.
You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:
It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.
Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.