Octopus study

Biologist Roger Hanlon took a trip to the Caribbean a decade ago and ran into an octopus on the ocean floor. The thing is, the little eight-legged guy was able to make himself look exactly like the rocks and vegetation he clung to in order to hide from predators and nosy humans. Hanlon’s findings on cephalopod camouflage may make marine biologists giddy, but anyone interested in the nature of reality should take note as well. The lesson is simple: We are in the dark. Octopus ink dark. And 99% of the people out there who tell you otherwise are simply deluding themselves.

Here’s what Mr. Hanlon and Ms. Lichtman have to say about our cephalopod friends, those “masters of optical illusion.”

Roger Hanlon: “The are the animals best known to go anywhere and camouflage. No animal even comes close to the speed and diversity of appearances of this animal.”

Flora Lichtman: “And they have a few tricks at their disposal. Octopus and cuddlefish can change their skin texture.”

Roger Hanlon: “This is the only animal group that we know of that has fine control of its skin to create bumpiness.”

Flora Lichtman: “And they match their skin dimensionality on sight, not touch, which is…”

Roger Hanlon: “…a vexing visual perception question.”

Flora Lichtman: “And of course, they change color.” …

Roger Hanlon: “So the amazing thing is that these animals are colorblind, yet they are capable of creating color-match patterns, but we don’t know how.”

Flora Lichtman: “But of course Hanlon would like to. And one way he’s studying this is by looking closely at squid skin. …

Roger Hanlon: “[Super up-close] images of live, unanesthetized a squid [reveal interesting dots].”

Flora Lichtman: “And those dots of pigment are called chromatophores. They come in three colors.”

Roger Hanlon: “Yellow, red and brown. But there are reflectors under the pigments and the reflectors produce the short wavelengths. The blues and the greens.”

Flora Lichtman: “And as you can see the chromatophores can change shape to change the predominant skin color.”

Roger Hanlon: “Each one of those little spots can expand up to 15X its diameter.”

Flora Lichtman: “And these chromatophores seem to be twitching all the time.”

Roger Hanlon: “The camouflage all night long. They don’t sleep as far as we know.”

Squid skin close up

Flora Lichtman: “That’s because cephalopods with their squishy bodies, rely on camouflage as their main protection from predators. But of course camouflage is not just color; it’s also pattern. This is one on Hanlon’s major hypothesis.”

Roger Hanlon: “We found only three or four basic patters templates that they use to achieve all this camouflage.”

  • Uniform: Little or no contrast in the pattern.
  • Mottle: Small scale light and dark blotches.
  • Disruptive: To interfere with recognition of what the animal is.

Octopus skin texture

Flora Lichtman: “Based on lab studies, Hanlon says that the animals flash particular patterns based on a few visual cues they encounter in the environment. Hanlon wouldn’t call it a reflex because so much visual recognition is involved…”

Roger Hanlon: “But it is very fast.”

Octopus camo

Flora Lichtman: “The palate and pattern changes in less than a second. But just why these patters work is still kind of a mystery. Let’s take the octopus video again. Hanlon analyzed this video frame by frame, but he can’t tell you why you can’t see the animal.”

Roger Hanlon: “We can’t find any true statistical matches whether it’s brightness or color between the animal and the background, so camouflage is not looking exactly like the background.”

Flora Lichtman: “Camoflauge just means fooling whatever is looking at you, which suggests …

Roger Hanlon: We’re behind the eight ball as it were, if we think the world looks like how we see it. There’s much more information there, and other animals see it very differently.”

Octopus

The level of hubris it takes to believe that through the human body’s five senses we could ever fully understand the universe would be hilarious if the consequences weren’t so destructive to the soul. As I said in June, your mind can not be trusted because you are not your mind.

‘The Incredible Shrinking Hand’ experiment seemed to highlight that nicely:

Last month, researchers at Oxford University announced the discovery of a powerful new painkiller: inverted binoculars. The scientists found that subjects who looked at a wounded hand through the wrong end of binoculars, making the hand appear smaller, felt significantly less pain and even experienced decreased swelling. According to the researchers, this demonstrates that even basic bodily sensations such as pain are modulated by what we see. So next time you stub your toe or cut your finger, do yourself a favor: look away.

What does all of this mean? It means that you should have an open mind. It means that you should reject anyone who tries to put you into a psychological prison cell as it pertains to what you can accomplish while you roam the earth. It means that you need to take off your mind-forged manacles and get to work doing what you know in your heart will make you truly happy.

The octopus can not see color, and yet it becomes that which it puts its eyes on. You can not see your future self, but you will become that which you focus on — so focus on success. Do so, and you will confound your critics just as the octopus confounds (while impressing) biologists.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

5 comments

  1. Bravo. Not so much on the squid facts. I hear all about every living creature from my 10 year old boy. And his knowledge would KNOCK your socks off. But your ability to motivate using the facts about those creatures, to remind us ( me) I’ve got be more than what I’ve been made to feel like most of my life! I’ve learned to look away at the first few iv’s I’ve had. Squamish to say the least, to now watching. Its true. Less pain when not watching. Okay I’m getting off track. I’m going to read this again to my friend tomorrow. Thank u Dougie!! Well done once again.

    1. “I’ve got be more than what I’ve been made to feel like most of my life!,” (Joysy1015).

      There was a part of the blog I cut out that emphasized this point a bit more, but I cut it because it wasn’t quite flowing with the rest of the piece.

      Basically, I was going to say that you (i.e., the reader) should kind of keep track for one month of all little instances where people in your life try to put limits on you, tear you down, or just generally try and make you feel like you should settle for less. Then, think about the affect that sort of environment has on a person. Think about all the times you lent credence to what that negative person or group was saying about you.

      It could be something as seemingly innocuous as you saying, “I always wanted to go to the Caribbean,” and your friend saying, “Oh, but that’s so expensive.” Well, so what? If something inside you has been telling you that you should go to the Caribbean for years, don’t you think that’s a sign? My guess is that wistfully agreeing with someone is almost always the wrong answer. That’s the kind of thinking that causes regret, and regret causes sorrow and depression and all sorts of other maladies. Start piling up all these little sorrows and in the end they weigh heavily on the soul.

      Why play tug-of-war with your soul? It makes no sense. Too many people play that game and they just wind up mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted.

    2. Yep! That’s me. Exhausted.. I don’t feel wanting to do anything is a sign, but a desire a want or a need. Needs are most important. But even God takes note if our good desires and promises to open his hand and fill those desires and that of every living thing.. So that says when someone doesn’t care about yours, mine or who Evers good desires, that puts them in an ungodly category in my mind. And NOTHING good comes from Ungodly people or thoughts. Selfish intentions will eat up the happiness from everyone around them if they get close enough. Living that life so I know. But pretty much. “Just like YOU said” only u said it better. And I really appreciate the add on ^ very much! Will try it. Thank you 😌🌺

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