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Platelets reflect light: bobtail squid


Bobtail squid / Nick Hobgood / LicenseGFDL - Gnu Free Document License

Reflector platelets within squid chromatophores reflect light because they are nanofabricated photonic structures composed of proteins called reflectins.

“The cuttlefish, octopus, and squid are the undisputed champions of camouflage… They can instantly modulate their color, shading, patchiness, mottling or stippling, transparency, heat, and even bioluminescence, light-polarity, or iridescence.”

Read more about the shape-shifting abilities of cephalopods, including the bobtail squid, in Tamsin Woolley-Barker's "Learning from the Master Shape-Shifter: Cephalopod Technologies" in Zygote Quarterly:
"The identification and characterization of the reflectins confirm that, although the majority of animal reflective tissues are composed of purine platelets, cephalopod reflector platelets are proteinaceous. Reflectins, a protein family with skewed amino acid compositions, repeating domains, and localized deposition, are thus far restricted to cephalopods. They represent a marked example of natural nanofabrication of photonic structures in these animals." (Crookes et al. 2004:237)

"A family of unusual proteins is deposited in flat, structural platelets in reflective tissues of the squid Euprymna scolopes. These proteins, which we have named reflectins, are encoded by at least six genes in three subfamilies and have no reported homologs outside of squids. Reflectins possess five repeating domains, which are highly conserved among members of the family. The proteins have a very unusual composition, with four relatively rare residues (tyrosine, methionine, arginine, and tryptophan) comprising 57% of a reflectin, and several common residues (alanine, isoleucine, leucine, and lysine) occurring in none of the family members. These protein-based reflectors in squids provide a marked example of nanofabrication in animal systems." (Crookes et al. 2004:235)
About the inspiring organism
Med_800pxeuprymna_scolopes_28bobtail_squid29 Bobtail squid
Euprymna scolopes Berry, 1913

Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: ITIS: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

IUCN Red List Status: Unknown

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Toxin-free, reflective protein for photovoltaic cells. Novel wavelength guides for optics. Adjustable wavelength modulation.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Energy, manufacture, optics, communication

Medical Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine and Public Health
Margaret Jean McFall-Ngai
University of Wisconsin--Madison
Crookes, W. J.; Ding, L. L.; Huang, Q. L.; Kimbell, J. R.; Horwitz, J.; McFall-Ngai, M. J. 2004. Reflectins: The Unusual Proteins of Squid Reflective Tissues. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 235-238 p.
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over 6 years ago
Thanks to Duarte Miguel Prazeres for finding and uploading these photos.
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