SciFri paid a visit to the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where manager Bret Grasse shared the mission of this unusual, but fascinating startup he calls the “cephalopod empire“. Their mission centers around the breeding, care and study of thousands of different types of cephalopods . specifically the striped pyjama squid, dwarf cuttlefish, flamboyant cuttlefish, Hawaiian bobtail squid and the two-spot octopus. Grasse sees these alien-like creatures as interesting to study and hopes inspire other researchers to view them the same .
Cephalopods have many unique and exaggerated characteristics of interest to study. Their neurons are very large, which is useful to neurobiologists. They have the biggest brain-to-body ratio of any known animals. They can regenerate arms and other tissues very quickly. Physiologically, they are supremely weird. Octopuses have three hearts, blue blood, and neurological receptors at the base of each arm, so it’s like they have eight brains in addition to a central brain. …Cephalopods also have interesting, complex behaviors, such as unmatched ability to change the color and texture of their skin for camouflage. …They are like aliens on earth. The more we can figure out about these exaggerated characteristics, the more we can draw on them for applications for humans.