Housekeeping…Don’t Eat Me

Clearly it has been too long since I’ve visited the good folks at Science in My Fiction. I’ve forgotten how to insert pictures and videos. Do make with the clickie though folks. You will not be disappointed. I promise. I’ve found you some interesting reading accompanied by cool pictures. Our editor here recommended a few topics for me as I get myself back in the groove. My first choice of those topics was “animal pigmentation patterns.” Of course it was! I love any excuse to talk a bit about my beloved cephalopods.

David Gallo: Underwater astonishments  (YouTube) I’ve enjoyed several TED talks. This one covers several sea creatures but also one octopus in particular that does a stellar job of making like algae. I was hunting a video of one octopus I saw ages ago that kept changing from one thing to another. If you happen to see it or remember it, please leave a link in the comments.

Octopus Escape (YouTube) This is another example of an octopus blending in quickly with its environment. You will see the blanket like spans between its tentacles also change color. Here is a cool article about a blanket octopus (RealMonstrosities). It even has a neat video with it.

When you start looking into camouflage  and more specifically animal coloration, you find a history of study going back hundreds of years.  The Wikipedia articles linked in the previous sentence do a great job of discussing the how, why, types, and applications of the topics. I encourage you to read them and chase down the links. Yes, I will make you tangent hounds yet.  Seriously though, much of what I want to cover in this post involves the new things I learned, some comparisons I had between animals and humans, and some loose story ideas.

Now about the title of the post,  when you visit the animal coloration article, the first thing you see is the spotted finned and tailed, striped oriental sweetlips fish hanging out while two  striped cleaner wrasse clear off parasites. According to the article, the sweetlips’ spots signal sexual maturity. While  “the behaviour and pattern of the cleaner fish signal their availability for cleaning service, rather than as prey.” So much of this leaves me wondering exactly how. In human behavior, uniforms often help convey our participation in a specific profession.

The concept of mimicry was one I recalled from middle school science. In Batesian Mimicry, harmless species imitate the harmful ones. In Müllerian Mimicry, the harmful creatures look like each other. Think bees and wasps here. In everyday life you can convert this to think of various law enforcement agencies resembling each other. Not that they are harmful, but the uniforms are meant to convey authority.

I learned that some frogs change their skin color to regulate body heat. There has to be something here to work with. While others have use melanin to tint their bodies to protect from sunburn. Sound familiar?

Here are three new things I learned from How Animal Camouflage Works (HowStuffWorks):

Chameleons might not only change their color to match their environment and as a matter of signaling, but also to broadcast their mood. My clothes, my hair style, my makeup often are affected by my mood. I wonder what it would be like if I could choose to shift my skin color and hair color by my mood. I wonder what it would be like if these parts of me gave away my feelings. Now imagine what that would be like in the political and diplomatic arenas. I read an anthology a while back about alien life. It had more than one story in which a person communicated with another by changing the tones of their skin.

Nudibranches change their color gradually thanks to a change in diet. I love pizza. I had bad acne as a teenager and young adult. Make of that what you will. I can assure you I turned red while deciding to share it.

Some fish change their appearance by released hormones that react to a change in environment. I know some couples start to look alike after being together a while. I really don’t think I’ve taken on the appearance of the cities I’ve lived in. It could be interesting though. I mean think about the folks that get painted up to support their local sports teams. On a scarier note, I am back to thinking about hormones that can change the way you look without your input on the matter.

One more article for the road: Why do some organisms glow? ( one also includes a cool video. This has to be one of my favorite aspects of this topic. I have always been fascinated with deep sea creatures. I am thinking of covering this topic separately in my next post. Interested? Leave me a comment. Also, share with me some stories in which camouflage played a role. Does this post inspire some story ideas for you? What neat things did you learn from making with the clickie?

Thanks for reading; it’s so nice to be back.

*All links are to Wikipedia unless otherwise noted.


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