Dynamic biophotonics: female squid exhibit sexually dimorphic tunable leucophores and iridocytes

Loliginid squid use tunable multilayer reflectors to modulate the optical properties of their skin for camouflage and communication. Contained inside specialized cells called iridocytes, these photonic structures have been a model for investigations into bio-inspired adaptive optics. Here, we describe two distinct sexually dimorphic tunable biophotonic features in the commercially important species Doryteuthis opalescens: bright stripes of rainbow iridescence on the mantle just beneath each fin attachment and a bright white stripe centered on the dorsal surface of the mantle between the fins. Both of these cellular features are unique to the female; positioned in the same location as the conspicuously bright white testis in the male, they are completely switchable, transitioning between transparency and high reflectivity. The sexual dimorphism, location and tunability of these features suggest that they may function in mating or reproduction. These features provide advantageous new models for investigation of adaptive biophotonics. The intensely reflective cells of the iridescent stripes provide a greater signal-to-noise ratio than the adaptive iridocytes studied thus far, while the cells constituting the white stripe are adaptive leucophores – unique biological tunable broadband scatterers containing Mie-scattering organelles activated by acetylcholine, and a unique complement of reflectin proteins.

D. G. DeMartini, A. Ghoshal, E. Pandolfi, A. T. Weaver, M. Baum, and D. E. Morse
J. Exp. Biol.
Volume: 216
Number: Pt 19
Pages: 3733–41
Date: October, 2013
ICB Affiliated Authors: Daniel E Morse