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Biophotonic Coloration and 3-D Texture in the Flexible Skin of Cephalopods

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[Technical Report, Final Report]

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We studied multiple facets of rapid adaptive coloration in squid and cuttlefish. This sophisticated system can produce dozens of body patterns for camouflage and communication in as little as 200 milliseconds, due to direct neural control of skin chromatophore organs and iridescent cells. Key findings were achieved for four objectives. 1 We examined the pattern of afferent input to the skin, with particular attention to innervation of radial muscles of chromatophores. We pursued the skins system design at a finer scale with 3-D electron microscopy of these multicellular organs of coloration. 2 Dynamic 3-D skin papillae were studied in detail and found to have both CNS and peripheral control expression of papillae was controlled by one set of nerves, while depression of papillae was controlled by different nerves. Behavioral sensorimotor experiments showed that cuttlefish use visual cues not tactile ones to match expression of their skin papillae to surrounding rugosity in the adjacent background for effective camouflage. 3 We studied the relative contribution to skin whiteness by cells containing plates by 3-D segmentation of EM data. We discovered structural coloration phenomena in chromatophores thought previously to be solely pigmentary. 4 We examined the three color classes of chromatophores and found that the pigmented granules have three classes of size and shape. We performed mass spec on material of each color, and obtained the first proteome for this tissue. Surprisingly, the structural coloration protein reflectin was discovered in surrounding sheath cells to produce iridescence.


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  • Biology

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[A, Approved For Public Release]