Octopuses: Extraordinary Eyesight

To celebrate World Octopus Day, learn more about the octopus’s remarkable eyesight!

Published October 08, 2018

Octopuses can quickly change the color of their skin to blend in with their environments, making them masters of camouflage. However, octopuses only have a single type of light receptor in their eyes, meaning they technically are colorblind. So, how can these experts of color camouflage distinguish different colors? The secret lies in the shape of their pupils, which are rectangular.

Octopus eye

Unlike human eyes, the octopus’s wide and unusual pupils take in light from all directions. This allows white light to be separated into its component colors in different wavelengths. If you’ve ever had your pupils dilated, you may have experienced this effect, called chromatic aberration—looking at a light with wide, dilated pupils produces rings of color around the light source.

After the colors are separated, experts have proposed that octopuses focus different color wavelengths on the retina using a variety of physical actions—including changing the distance between the lens and the retina. This allows the octopus to distinguish different colors, even though they may not be “seeing” colors like humans and other animals do.

Learn more about otherworldly octopuses!

Previous Post

Featured Stories

Manatee Manatees Visiting Maryland!

As the waters off the mid-Atlantic coast warm up, it’s not unusual to spot some seasonal visitors swimming in our local waterways—manatees!

Read the full story

Snapping turtle and red-eared sliders Floating Wetland Update: Turtles, Fish and Birds!

Several new species have been spotted on the National Aquarium’s floating wetland prototype in the Inner Harbor!

Read the full story

Related Stories

How Much Do You Know About Octopuses?

Published October 08, 2017

Happy World Octopus Day!

Published October 08, 2014