Posted in Science, Wildlife

Animal of the Week: The Octopus

Common octopus (Octopus vulgaris)
The common octopus (Octopus vulgaris). Photograph: Dave King/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley via The Guardian.

…can see with its skin. That’s right—octopuses have a distinct pleasure of having a sense of sight in their skin cells. New research from the Journal of Experimental Biology finds that the eight-tentacled sea creature senses changes in light via its skin cells, a feature common for eyes.

Octupus skin contains the same light-sensitive protein found in eyes, known as opsin. They also have specialized skills cells known as chromatophores, which respond to light. The wow factor multiples when you consider that octopuses are color blind, but they use their skin to detect the color of their surroundings. Depending on their detection, they can then camouflage themselves accordingly, all within a second.

But back to their skin-vision: Researchers found the creatures’ skin cells responded most intensely to blue light, and least to red light. When exposed to a bright white light, the chromatophores expanded quickly and remained so.

That’s what’s new from the world of octupi, but what else is so great about them? How about the fact they have eight arms with suction cups, are very intelligent, can camouflage based on need, and oh, did I mention they can see with their skin?!

But let’s not forget that they don’t have a skeleton, they have three hearts, they have beaks similar to that of parrots, and adults have arm spans of up to 14 feet. Whew, and that’s just a start.

I’ll leave it there though. For now.

Stay inspired,

C x N

**In researching the animal, I found that there are three generally accepted pluralizations for “octopus” — octopuses, octopi, and octopods — but only “octupuses” is commonly and linguistically correct. “Octupi”, however, is far more fun 😛

Sources: The Guardian, Science Daily

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