Justine Allen Defends Ph.D. Thesis on Cephalopod Camouflage; Graduates from Brown-MBL Program

Justine Allen with her advisor, Dr. Roger Hanlon.

Justine Allen with her advisor, MBL Senior Scientist Roger Hanlon.

By Emily Skehill and Alison Maksym

Justine J. Allen, a Brown-MBL graduate student in the Department of Neuroscience at Brown University and the MBL Program in Sensory Physiology and Behavior, successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation on March 24, 2014 at Brown University. Her advisor was MBL Senior Scientist Roger T. Hanlon, director of the Program in Sensory Physiology and Behavior.

Allen studied the structural features that assist in camouflage in several species of octopus and cuttlefish. Studies of camouflage allow scientists to examine the visual perception of both prey animals and predators, as both quickly alter their image to either hide or attack. She focused on the camouflage of edges, as the detection of an object’s edge is what ultimately leads to its recognition. Her work examined the ways that a physically complicated edge can assist with camouflage. In addition to these findings, Allen studied and modeled the biomechanics of these structures in detail in her thesis, which was titled “Adaptive edge design for visual camouflage: Biomechanics of morphing 3D skin papillae in cephalopods and changeable cryptic body patterning in the slender filefish.” More information on her thesis research is here.

Allen published several articles during her doctoral research:

Allen JJ, Bell GRR, Kuzirian AM, Hanlon RT (2013). Cuttlefish skin papilla morphology suggests a muscular hydrostatic function for rapid changeability. Journal of Morphology 274: 645-656.

Allen JJ, Bell GRR, Kuzirian AM, Velankar SS, Hanlon RT (2014). Comparative morphology of changeable skin papillae in octopus and cuttlefish. Journal of Morphology 275: 371-390.

Allen JJ, Akkaynak D, Hanlon RT (In Review). Adaptive camouflage body patterning and dermal flap morphology in the cryptic slender filefish, Monacanthus tuckeri, on a coral reef. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.