It's Alive

The colorful lives of squid

Squids, octopuses and cuttlefishes are nature’s iPads

By
9:15am, October 21, 2013

SURFACE TRICKS  California market squid (shown) can shimmer, speckle or black out completely in a wide range of special effects. What these displays look like to other squid remains a puzzle.

Your calamari, it turns out, may have come from a temporary transvestite with rainbows in its armpits.

Well, not armpits, but spots just below where the fins flare out. “Finpits,” cell biologist Daniel DeMartini nicknamed them. He and his colleagues have documented unusual color-change displays in female California market squid, popular in restaurants.

Squids, octopuses and cuttlefishes are nature’s iPads, changing their living pixels at will. DeMartini, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, saw so many sunset shimmers, blink-of-an-eye blackouts and other marvels in California’s Doryteuthis opalescens that it took him a while to notice that only females shimmered the finpit stripe. It shows up now and then during life, and reliably for about 24 hours after decapitation, DeMartini found.

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