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Lab Times



Colourful, Beautiful and Useful

Paul the Postdoc

by Rafael Florés


ormally roaming the Asian waters flowing around Japan and

China, the paintpot cuttlefish (

Metasepia tullbergi

) has found

a new home in Central Europe, in the lab of Gilles Laurent at

the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt am Main,

Germany. Laurent’s team picked the mollusc to be their new model

organism, not because of its vibrant colours and elegant appearance

but because it produces travelling colour waves distinctly, visibly and

frequently along its body. The team already observed that the waves

originate from four different regions in


’s mantle but what re-

mains to be elucidated is the nature of their functions and how exactly

these waves are produced and propagated. For the latter, the Frankfurt

scientists initially had three hypotheses, involving either a pacemaker,

“coupled arrays of central pattern generators or dynamic attractors on

a network with circular topology”. Watching the cuttlefish displaying

its characteristic show convinced the scientists that a pacemaker can-

not be responsible for this dynamic pigmentation pattern, also called

“passing clouds” (

Curr Biol

, 24(15):1737-42). Two alternatives re-

main but will


show its true colours?


Picture of the issue

The image taken by Stephan Junek

from the Max Planck Institute for

Brain Research shows a



baby, a full-grown paintpot

cuttlefish is pictured top right.

Photos (2): Stephan Junek, MPI Brain Research

Lab Security Files:

Do not centrifuge unbalanced

samples unless you have a very

good reason to do so!

I give up! Just two months to

the annual spin rodeo and

Still I can’t go beyond 20

seconds at

100,000 rPM.