Cephalopods between Science, Art, and Engineering: A Contemporary Synthesis

Ryuta Nakajima, Shuichi Shigeno, Letizia Zullo, Fabio De Sio, Markus R. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Cephalopods are outstanding animals. For centuries, they have provided a rich source of inspiration to many aspects of human cultures, from art, history, media, and spiritual beliefs to the most exquisite scientific curiosity. Given their high esthetical value and "mysteriously"rich behavioral repertoire they have functioned as boundary objects (or subjects) connecting seemingly distinct thematic fields. Interesting aspects of their being span from the rapid camouflaging ability inspiring contemporary art practices, to their soft and fully muscular body that curiously enough inspired both gastronomy and (soft) robotics. The areas influenced by cephalopods include ancient mythology, art, behavioral science, neuroscience, genomics, camouflage technology, and bespoken robotics. Although these might seem far related fields, in this manuscript we want to show how the increasing scientific and popular interest in this heterogeneous class of animals have indeed prompted a high level of integration between scientific, artistic, and sub-popular culture. We will present an overview of the birth and life of cephalopod investigations from the traditional study of ethology, neuroscience, and biodiversity to the more recent and emerging field of genomics, material industry, and soft robotics. Within this framework, we will attempt to capture the current interest and progress in cephalopod scientific research that lately met both the public interest and the "liberal arts"curiosity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
JournalFrontiers in Communication
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
SS has been supported by the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn Fellowship (BEOM Department, Stazione Zoologica 548 Anton Dohrn). The initial panel discussion was supported by COST Action FA 1301 and CephsInAction.

Publisher Copyright:
© Nakajima, Shigeno, Zullo, De Sio and Schmidt.


  • art
  • cephalopod
  • communication
  • culture
  • interdisciplinary
  • science


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