Squid Skin Is Way Weirder Than You Ever Imagined

Does squid skin have a mind of its own? Researchers at Stanford University are trying to find out.

Squid have tiny organs in their skin called chromatophores. When these organs expand, they reveal more color pigment. When they contract, the color shrinks.

It’s mesmerizing and it looks like this:

Here’s a closer look:

The chromatophores allow the squid to blend in with its environment and protect itself from predators, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Hannah Rosen, a PhD candidate at Stanford University, studies how squid control the colors on their skin.

KQED breaks it down:

Her research includes snipping a nerve that connects the brain to the chromatophores on one side of the squid’s body. When Rosen does this, the chromatophores on that side immediately relax and shrink to tiny spots, while the chromatophores on the intact side continue to flash normally. After a few days, some of the chromatophores on the paralyzed side began to move again, as if they were getting a signal from somewhere other than the squid’s brain.

As the video above shows, the results suggest that the color change in squid skin can perhaps occur intentionally or involuntarily. Amazing!

But let’s take it one step further. Color change for camouflage requires an awareness of surroundings. This means that in the involuntary sense, it’s as if the squid skin itself can see. Not a bad sense to have when you’re trying to survive in the wild.

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