By Nell Greenfieldboyce
Scientists report this week that they have disabled a pigmentation gene in a squid called Doryteuthis pealeii. Their success shows that cephalopods—which include squid and octopuses–can finally be studied using the same kind of genetic tools that have let scientists explore the biology of more familiar lab animals like mice and fruit flies. Those are easy to keep in the laboratory, and scientists routinely modify their genes to get insights into behavior, diseases, and possible treatments.
Cephalopods may seem plenty strange enough without scientists tinkering with their genes. These tentacled beings have huge, clever brains that look nothing like our own. They travel using jet propulsion and some can change their skin color in a flash. All of this oddness is exactly why some biologists want to better understand them.
“They’ve evolved these big brains and this behavioral sophistication completely independently,” says Joshua Rosenthal, a researcher at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “This provides an opportunity to compare them with us and see what elements are in common, and what elements are unique.” Read more …
Top photo: Studies over the past century with D. pealeii, often called the Woods Hole squid, have led to major advances in neurobiology, including the description of fundamental mechanisms of neurotransmission. The MBL collects D. pealeii from local waters for an international community of researchers. Credit: Roger Hanlon