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How do octopuses change their skin color?

Octopuses are sea invertebrate animals famous for their rounded bodies, eight long arms or legs (whatever you like) and bulging eyes. But another thing about which people know very little is octopuses changing skin colors. Octopuses are very good at changing their colors to hide them from predators. Many animals rely on camouflage, but octopuses are in a league of their own, largely because of the speed and accuracy with which they can transition between vastly different colors. “It’s a fraction of a second, the fastest [transitions] are under 100 milliseconds (0.1 seconds), which is faster than a blink of an eye.”

Octopuses are nature’s ultimate weirdos. They have squishy bodies that can squeeze through tiny holes or cracks and their broken arm can regrow. Octopuses have three hearts to pump blue blood (because it’s rich in copper) through their veins. But octopuses’ most inspiring feature is their ability to rapidly change color and blend into their surroundings to hide from predators.

Octopus changing color: how it works?

Just beneath their skin, there are three layers of chromatophores in an octopus’s skin, and each layer has xanthommatin particles that reflect back a different color.  Each of these cells has a tiny sac filled with either a red, orange, brown, yellow or black pigment and by stretching or squeezing these sacs, they can rapidly change the brightness of each of these colours.

Many animals rely on camouflage, but octopuses are in a league of their own, largely because of the speed and accuracy with which they can transition between vastly different colors. “It’s a fraction of a second, the fastest [transitions] are under 100 milliseconds (0.1 seconds), which is faster than a blink of an eye.”

Beneath the chromatophores, lies a specialized layer of cells playing a role in reflecting surrounding light, allowing an octopus to even more closely match the shades surrounding it. these are iridophore cells. These cells are filled with hundreds of tiny mirror-like structures called reflectosomes that reflect light back up through the octopus’ skin allowing colours to appear brighter if desired. These reflecting surfaces are also responsible for adding shades of blue and green to the octopus’ colouration, as its pigments are unable to produce these colour.

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