Octopus, squid and cuttlefish have eyes that are in many ways like the eyes of vertebrates.

Nautilus, the ancient relative of these groups, possess mysterious eyes that lack lenses. Adding to our interest in crustacean vision (see stomatopods but not forgetting fiddler crabs), and again using a system-wide approach incorporating physiology, ecology, anatomy, behaviour, neural integration and advanced imagining, we hope to determine what cephalopods see and in particular how their brain processes this information. The first preparation used to discover how nerves function was a squid and the last detailed work on cephalopod neuroanatomy is over 50 years old. We are returning to this model system to learn more. Our aim is to understand how cephalopods see their world and communicate. How do they use their remarkable and famous camouflage while being colour blind? Have they ‘replaced’ colour vision with polarisation?

orking with Dr John Messenger, one of the initial successes with this group was a behavioural confirmation of their lack of colour vision (Marshall and Messenger 1996). Since then we have developed several novel methods for examining the visual capability of these animals. These include the use of polarisation-vision only behavioural tests, high resolution MRI and several techniques to examine neural wiring and function within and behind the eye.

Current projects with cephalopods include:

  • The optics of cephalopod vision, new mechanisms of range finding
  • The neuroanatomy and function of the optic lobes
  • Comparative anatomy and visual ecology of cephalopods, different groups, different depths
  • Polarisation vision and communication

See our publications page for the following key publications:

  • Chung and Marshall 2014, Current Biology.
  • Temple et al 2012, Current Biology.
  • Pignatelli, et al 2011, Phil Trans R Soc.
  • Talbot and Marshall 2010, J Exp Biol.