• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/Bio-camouflage

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth’s Maggie Villiger reports on an innovation in camouflage technology that takes its lead from the lowly cuttlefish.


CURWOOD: Coming up, how Iraq's landscape has changed from the days when it was the cradle of civilization.

First, this Note on Emerging Science from Maggie Villiger.

[MUSIC: Science Note Theme]

VILLIGER: Mother Nature has a habit of solving lots of engineering problems, and scientists at Bath University's Center for Biomimetics and Natural Technologies in England are adapting some of her solutions for modern applications. With an eye toward developing a new kind of camouflage for the military, researchers at Bath have recently turned their focus on the lowly cuttlefish.

This cousin to the squid and octopus can quickly change color to blend in with its surroundings, a talent the military would like its own troops and equipment to share. Cuttlefish have transparent skin, and just underneath are little sacs called chromatophores filled with pigment. The pigment ranges in color from brown to orange to red, and manipulating these colors allows the creatures to blend in with sandy dirt, for instance.

But how do they camouflage if they're in a bright-green kelp forest? It turns out that below the chromatophores, cuttlefish also have white patches of cells called leucophores. By scattering and diffracting light, these leucophores reflect the color of their environment. That's how the cuttlefish can appear green when surrounded by algae.

Researchers are adapting this mirror-like technology in gels and plastics that the military could employ to hide in any environment, from sandy desert to leafy forest.

That's this week's Note on Emerging Science. I'm Maggie Villiger.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Munir Bashir “Taqsim en Maqam Nahawand-Kabir” L’art du n’ud - Orcora (2001)]



Bath University's Centre for Biomimetics and Natural Technologies


Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth