Our laboratory is largely devoted to camouflage and the highly interdisciplinary approaches necessary to study its mechanisms and functions. We conduct a good deal of field work to understand the sensory world and natural behaviors of marine animals that can change their appearance within one or a few seconds. Our main focus is on cephalopods although recently we have studied flatfish, filefish and groupers that can also produce Rapid Adaptive Camouflage on a time scale somewhat similar to squid, octopus and cuttlefish. We also study terrestrial organisms when appropriate. Our greatest source of inspiration – and our guidance of laboratory studies - has come from field research.

We conduct a wide range of experimentation in the laboratory to tease out the details of camouflage that we observe and quantify from field studies. These include mechanisms of visual perception and sensory integration as well as the functional morphology of the complex skin that produces the changeable body patterns.

We are highly collaborative and work at multiple levels of integration: from molecules to behavior to ecology. Our central focus is the whole organism, and we use a comparative approach in nearly all of our studies. We often combine art and science in our research, and in some cases our work extends to materials science and engineering. We are consistently involved in public outreach, particularly through natural history television and science-based stories on the world wide web. We welcome inquiries regarding our research.

Contact Information:

Roger T. Hanlon
Senior Scientist, MBL
Professor (MBL), Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Brown University
7 MBL Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543 USA
(508) 289 - 7710


NOVA ScienceNow:
Go to NOVA's Youtube Channel

New York Times Segment:
Go to New York Times website

iBioSeminar: Rapid Adaptive Camouflage and Signaling in Cephalopods.
Part 1: Concepts and questions
Part 2: Exploring mechanisms of Visual Perception
Part 3: Changeable Skin
(These three seminars are downloadable for individual or classroom use.)