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MBL scientists report a paradigm-shifting discovery on specialized organs in squid skin, which could bring bio-inspired engineers closer to building smart skin.

Scientists discover what’s controlling chameleon-like abilities in squid

Organs in ‘smart skin’ lead to changes in color and pattern, MBL study find. Organs in ‘smart skin’ lead to changes in color and pattern, MBL study finds

In the blink of an eye, a squid’s “smart skin” can switch color and pattern for the purpose of camouflage or sexual signaling—a virtuosic display that has long fascinated scientists.

Now, scientists from the UChicago-affiliated Marine Biological Laboratory and from Northeastern University report a paradigm-shifting discovery in how specialized organs in squid skin, called chromatophores, contribute to the feat via an elegant interplay of pigmentary action and structural coloration. Their study, which brings bio-inspired engineers closer to building smart skin, was recently published in Nature Communications.

“People have been trying to build devices that can mimic cephalopod color change for a long time by using off-the-shelf components,” said Leila Deravi, an assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Northeastern, whose lab led the study. “Nobody has come anywhere near the speed and sophistication of how they actually work.”

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