Squids are masters of camouflage, and can manipulate the colours emitted by their skin with a distributed central nervous system in order to blend in. Now DARPA can manipulate the colour changes too, by hacking into the squid’s central nervous system functions.
A study funded by the defence Advanced Research Projects Agency has perfected the art of using electrical signals to manipulate the colour of a squid’s iridescent skin over the entire colour spectrum.
The Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts carried out the research.
It was a tough nut to crack, and the discovery is the result of 20 years of curiosity.The nerve network in squid skin is immensely complex, and now the ability to manipulate that system offers new opportunities for active camouflage.
DARPA has a number of programs that set out to hack biology. This is one of them, seeking to exploit the squid’s advanced camouflage for military use.
The colours come from “iridiphores” on the squid’s skin. Now that the scientists know which nerves stimulate which iridiphores — not to mention how to electrically shock the nerve to project the right colour — they’ll be able to advance the research on iridiphore manipulation.
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