Insane In the Chromatophores

Two of my favorite things, Cypress Hill and Squids, together at last.

During experiments on the axons of the Woods Hole squid (Loligo pealei), we tested our cockroach leg stimulus protocol on the squid’s chromatophores. The results were both interesting and beautiful. The video is a view through an 8x microscope zoomed in on the dorsal side of the caudal fin of the squid. We used a suction electrode to stimulate the fin nerve. Chromatophores are pigmeted cells that come in 3 colors: Brown, Red, and Yellow. Each chromatophore is lined with up to 16 muscles that contract to reveal their color.

Paloma T. Gonzalez-Bellido of Roger Hanlon’s Lab in the Marine Resource Center of the Marine Biological Labs helped us with the preparation. You can read their latest paper at:

Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

5 comments on “Insane In the Chromatophores
  1. Sure, it’s creative, but don’t forget this is the skin of a live animal hooked up to electrodes. Was the squid held out of the water for the duration of the song so they could make a nice video of its skin pigment cells flinching with each electric shock? I’m pretty sure that would not pass the ethics committee for animal care and use.

  2. Yo, if you’d actually read the linked paper you wouldn’t make so many incorrect assumptions.

  3. It’s a super cool. Was the squid harmed? Did it hurt? I read the linked paper but was not clear. Please elaborate for the novice.

    • I wanted to know too, so I read the paper. Squid were euthanized BEFORE their skin was used for this video. So it is NOT the “skin of a live animal hooked up to electrodes” – it’s the skin of a dead one. :)

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