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September 18, 2013

The Amazing Disappearing Octopus

This amazing video has been making the rounds on the internet for a while, be we still couldn’t resist sharing it with you! You may know that an octopus can change the color of its skin to blend in with its surroundings. But did you know they were this good?

(Video: Roger Hanlon via Discover Magazine)

Cephalopod scientist Roger Hanlon captured this footage during the course of his research at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Halon studies how cephalopods like octopi, squid, and cuttlefish change their coloration with such amazing speed and accuracy.

Here’s how they do it: Cephalopod skin is covered with millions of tiny pigment organs called chromatophores that absorb and reflect different wavelengths of light. Cephlopods can also consciously extend or contract these pigment organs to change their size. But that’s not the octopi’s only tool. They also have another layer of skin covered in tiny reflectors that reflect light to create an iridescent sheen. Hear Roger Hanlon explain cephalopod camouflage in detail here.

Even though he’s an expert, Halon wasn’t prepared for the crazy camouflage of this octopus: he told Science Friday that when he saw it he started screaming!