They uncovered some of the secrets of the California Market Squid:
“We had no idea that the mechanism we would discover would turn out to be so remarkably complex yet contained and so elegantly integrated in one multifunctional molecule—the block-copolymeric reflectin—with opposing domains so delicately poised that they act like a metastable machine, continually sensing and responding to neuronal signaling by precisely adjusting the osmotic pressure of an intracellular nanostructure to precisely fine-tune the color and brightness of its reflected light,” Morse said.
What’s more, the researchers found, the whole process is reversible and cyclable, enabling the squid to continually fine-tune whatever optical properties its situation calls for.
The researchers had successfully manipulated reflectin in previous experiments, but this study marks the first demonstration of the underlying mechanism. Now it could provide new ideas to scientists and engineers designing materials with tunable properties. “Our findings reveal a fundamental link between the properties of biomolecular materials produced in living systems and the highly engineered synthetic polymers that are now being developed at the frontiers of industry and technology,” Morse said.Harrison Tasoff and Sonia Fernandez, “A marvelous molecular machine” at Phys.org
Was that a shutter banging or the ghost of Darwin rattling in the night? Hard to tell these days.
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