The ultimate camo: Team to mimic camouflage skill of marine animals in high-tech materials

April 22, 2011

WOODS HOLE, MA-- Camouflage expert Roger Hanlon of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is co-recipient of a $6 million grant from the Office of Naval Research to study and ultimately emulate the exquisite ability of some marine animals to instantly change their skin color and pattern to blend into their environment.

Hanlon, who has spent more than three decades studying the camouflage artistry of squid, octopus, and cuttlefish (a class of animals known as the cephalopods), is collaborating with materials scientists and nanotechnologists at Rice University toward the goal of developing materials that can mimic cephalopod camouflage.

"Our internal name for this project is 'squid skin,' but it is really about fundamental research," says Naomi Halas, an expert in nano-optics at Rice University and the principal investigator on the four-year grant. "Our deliverable is knowledge, the basic discoveries that will allow us to make materials that are observant, adaptive, and responsive to their environment."

In 2008, Hanlon and MBL colleagues Lydia Mäthger and Steven Roberts discovered that cephalopod skin contains opsins, the same type of light-sensing proteins that function in the eyes.

"This project will enable us to explore an exciting new avenue of vision research - distributed light sensing throughout the skin," Hanlon says. "How and where that visual information is used by the nervous system is likely to uncover some novel neural circuitry."

Hanlon and his team will perform experiments with cephalopods to determine how opsin molecules receive light and aid the animal's visual system in adjusting skin patterns for communication and camouflage. A wide range of techniques will be used to accomplish these aims. The MBL team, which includes scientists Mäthger and Alan Kuzurian, will be collaborating with marine biologist Thomas Cronin of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, on these investigations.

"This is inherently a multidisciplinary problem," Halas says. "What can we, as engineers, learn from the way these animals perceive light and color?" The project team's engineers will focus on emulating cephalopod skin using new metamaterials--materials that blur the line between material and machine.
-end-
RESOURCES

Video, Photos, and Scientific Articles available at: http://www.mbl.edu/news/press_releases/2011_pr_04_21.html

The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery and improving the human condition through research and education in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Founded in 1888 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, the MBL is an independent, nonprofit corporation.

Marine Biological Laboratory

Related Camouflage Articles from Brightsurf:

Asymmetric optical camouflage: Tuneable reflective color accompanied by optical Janus effect
Deliverying viewing-direction sensitive information display across single sheet of transreflective window is introduced.

Bristol scientists see through glass frogs' translucent camouflage
Glass frogs are well known for their see-through skin but, until now, the reason for this curious feature has received no experimental attention.

Grasshoppers are perfectly aware of their own coloration when trying to camouflage
A research team from the Pablo de Olavide University of Seville, led by Pim Edelaar, has carried out an experimental study that shows that grasshoppers are perfectly aware of their own colouration when choosing the place that provides them with better camouflage.

Fossil record analysis hints at evolutionary origins of insects' structural colors
Researchers from Yale-NUS College in Singapore and University College Cork have analyzed preserved scales from wing cases of two fossil weevils from the Late Pleistocene era to better understand the origin of light-scattering nanostructures present in present-day insects.

Ship noise hampers crab camouflage
Colour-changing crabs struggle to camouflage themselves when exposed to noise from ships, new research shows.

Squid brains approach that of dogs
We are closer to understanding the incredible ability of squid to instantly camouflage themselves thanks to research from The University of Queensland.

Brilliant iridescence can conceal as well as attract
A new study shows for the first time that the striking iridescent colours seen in some animals increase their chances of survival against predators by acting as a means of camouflage.

Jewel beetles' sparkle helps them hide in plain sight
Bright colors are often considered an evolutionary tradeoff in the animal kingdom.

Animals should use short, fast movements to avoid being located
Most animals need to move, whether this is to seek out food, shelter or a mate.

Animals reduce the symmetry of their markings to improve camouflage
Some forms of camouflage have evolved in animals to exploit a loophole in the way predators perceive their symmetrical markings.

Read More: Camouflage News and Camouflage Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.