By Veronique Greenwood
Consider the cocktail umbrella. Like their larger counterparts, these wee things can be furled and unfurled easily. Once you tire of playing with them, you can lock them into the open position with a little latch before continuing to enjoy your drink.
Now imagine you have hundreds of cocktail umbrellas under your skin. This, it turns out, is fairly close to reality for cuttlefish, the sprightly relatives of squids and octopuses, according to new research.
Biologists at the University of Cambridge and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., have discovered that cuttlefish, masters of camouflage whose shape-shifting talents have fascinated biologists for decades, can lock hundreds of tiny structures under their skin into an upright position, giving themselves a particular texture, then go on their way without expending any energy to keep up the look. Read more …