, Volume 205, Issue 2, pp 167-186

Reflector cells in the skin of Octopus dofleini

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Summary

The cells that form the reflecting layer beneath the chromatophore organs of the octopus are conspicuous elements of its dermal chromatic system. Each flattened, ellipsoidal reflector cell in this layer bears thousands of peripherally radiating, discoidal, reflecting lamellae. Each lamella consists of a proteinaceous reflecting platelet enveloped by the plasmalemma. The lamellae average 90 nm in thickness and have variable diameters with a maximum of about 1.7 μm. Sets of reflecting lamellae are organized into functional units called reflectosomes. The lamellae in each reflectosome form a parallel array - similar to a stack of coins. The average number of lamellae in a reflectosome is 11. Adjacent lamellae are uniformly separated by an extracellular gap of about 60 nm in embedded specimens. The reflectosomes are randomly disposed over the surface of the reflector cell.

The observed organization of the reflectosome is compatible with its role as a quarter-wave thin-film interference device. The alternating reflecting lamellae and interlamellar spaces constitute layers of high and low refractive indices. Using measurements of the thicknesses and refractive indices of the platelets and interlamellar spaces, we have calculated that the color of reflected light should be blue ⊔reen, as seen in vivo.

The sequence of events leading to the definitive arrangement of the reflectosomes is uncertain.

The reflector cells of O. dofleini are compared and contrasted with the iridophores of squid.

This investigation was supported in part by grant 5-TO1-HD-0026 from the National Institute of Health