We are closer to understanding the incredible ability of squid to instantlycamouflage themselves thanks to research from The University of Queensland.

Dr Wen-Sung Chung and Professor Justin Marshall, from UQ’s Queensland BrainInstitute, completed the first MRI-based mapping of the squid brain in 50years to develop an atlas of neural connections.

“This the first time modern technology has been used to explore the brain ofthis amazing animal, and we proposed 145 new connections and pathways, morethan 60 per cent of which are linked to the vision and motor systems,” DrChung said.

“The modern cephalopods, a group including octopus, cuttlefish and squid, havefamously complex brains, approaching that of a dog and surpassing mice andrats, at least in neuronal number.

“For example, some cephalopods have more than 500 million neurons, compared to200 million for a rat and 20,000 for a normal mollusc.”

Some examples of complex cephalopod behaviour include the ability tocamouflage themselves despite being colourblind, count, recognise patterns,problem solve and communicate using a variety of signals.

“We can see that a lot of neural circuits are dedicated to camouflage andvisual communication.

“Giving the squid a unique ability to evade predators, hunt and conspecificcommunicate with dynamic colour changes”.

Dr Chung said the study also supported emerging hypotheses on convergentevolution – when organisms independently evolve similar traits – of cephalopodnervous systems with parts of the vertebrate central nervous system.

“The similarity with the better-studied vertebrate nervous system allows us tomake new predictions about the cephalopod nervous system at the behaviourallevel,” he said.

“For example, this study proposes several new networks of neurons in charge ofvisually-guided behaviours such as locomotion and countershading camouflage –when squid display different colours on the top and bottom of their bodies toblend into the background whether they are being viewed from above or below.”

The team’s ongoing project involves understanding why different cephalopodspecies have evolved different subdivisions of the brain.

“Our findings will hopefully provide evidence to help us understand why thesefascinating creatures display such diverse behaviour and very differentinteractions.”

The study involved using techniques such as MRI on the brain of the reef squidSepioteuthis lessoniana , and was published in the journal _iScience.DOI:_https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2019.100816.

Image: UQ researchers have used modern technology to map the connections ofthe brain of the reef squid Sepioteuthis lessoniana.

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