Octopus skin has LACE & phototransduction genes for light sensing, says study

The slightly terrifying, eight-armed, two-eyed sea creature octopus has been a strong cause of curiosity for the majority of us, as a result of which it has been the subject of several researchers. Recently scientists have conducted a study for finding out how octopuses manage to change the texture, pattern and color of their skin and camouflage themselves to adapt to the environment they are in.

The said study was carried out by researchers representing the University of California in Santa Barbara. Analysis of the findings of the study revealed that in spite of having brains, multiple hearts, and eyes, octopuses don’t need any of those organs for sensing the changes in light in their surrounding area. The job of sensing light is done perfectly by the skin tissue of these sea creatures.

Desmond Ramirez, the lead author of the study and a doctoral student at the university’s Department of Ecology, Evolution & Marine Biology, said that although skin of these animals doesn’t sense light as precisely as their brain and eyes, it is capable of sensing change or increase in light. Ramirez added that octopus skin is not meant for detecting edge and contrast, but for spotting brightness.


For testing this feature of the aquatic creature, the research team allowed octopus skin to come in contact with different types of light. The octopuses were found to expand or contract their skin in response to light; this expansion and contraction allowed them to change the color of their skin. This process of changing skin color is referred to as LACE or Light-Activated Chromatophore Expansion.

During the study, researchers came to know that octopus skin contains a protein that is a typical constituent of the creature’s eye. This forced them to believe that octopuses detect light through their eyes and skin using the same mechanism.


Octopus is certainly not the only mollusk to use its skin for sensing light. This study by researchers at the University of California in Santa Barbara is special because the findings put forward by it will help in assembling more facts about the evolutionary relatives of octopuses.

Here, it must be mentioned that knowing the secret behind octopus’s ability of changing skin color is important for humans as since a long time we are trying to manufacture synthetic materials capable of mimicking the camouflaging ability of these sea creatures.