3D Printing Aids Understanding of Cuttlefish Camouflage

Researchers are making significant strides in understanding the intricate camouflage abilities of cuttlefish, despite the color-blindness of the sea creatures. These marine creatures can rapidly alter their skin patterns to blend with their surroundings. The latest research, presented at the 2023 Society for Neuroscience meeting, involves examining cuttlefish skin cells, tracking brain activity, and potentially observing their dreaming patterns.

3D Printing Aids Understanding of Cuttlefish Camouflage
Color-blind, yet colorful. (Image Credit: Credit: Tessa Montague/Thomas Barlow)

Cuttlefish possess large brains for invertebrates, sparking interest in their complex behavior and camouflage capabilities. They can change skin color and texture instantly, outpacing even chameleons in speed and accuracy. This phenomenon is closely linked to their brain activity, prompting scientists to explore it further – and they used a little 3D printed hat full of sensors to do so. You can see the headwear strapped to the cuttlefish in the GIF below.

3D printed device
A cuttlefish wears a 3D printed device to visualize the animal’s neural activity. (Image Credit: Tessa Montague/Thomas Barlow)

High-resolution videos of cuttlefish skin cells reveal how brain output is mirrored in their skin patterns. Their skin contains millions of chromatophores—cells with pigments that change shape and color based on muscle contractions. This mechanism allows cuttlefish to adapt their appearance rapidly.

Researchers also found that cuttlefish do not rely on a fixed strategy to camouflage but use trial-and-error to match their environment. This behavior indicates a high level of adaptability and learning.

The next step involves gene manipulation to better understand cuttlefish brain functions. Despite challenges in gene-editing technologies for cuttlefish, progress is being made. The ultimate goal is to insert genes producing fluorescent proteins, lighting up neurons during brain activity.

Additionally, innovative tools like tanks surrounded by e-ink screens are being developed. These screens, similar to e-readers, allow controlled environmental simulations without disorienting the cuttlefish with bright light. This technology is crucial for studying gene-edited cuttlefish and their neural patterns.

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The ongoing research on cuttlefish camouflage and neural activity could offer novel insights into neural plasticity and adaptability. Understanding these mechanisms might lead to advancements in bio-inspired design and technology, potentially influencing fields like robotics and adaptive materials.

Source: nature.com

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منبع: https://3dprinting.com/news/3d-printing-aids-understanding-of-cuttlefish-camouflage/

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