Is Octopus Ink Similar to Fountain Pen Ink?

By Nancy King, 2003
What Is Octopus Ink?
Inking Octopus by Steve O'Shea
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The ink of the octopus, or any cephalopod, is composed of highly concentrated melanin. This is the same dark pigment that we humans have, and which is responsible for skin color and the color of dark hair. It is a natural dye that cephalopods manufacture in an ink sac. Most, but not all octopuses have an ink sac and produce ink, but a few, such as the deep-sea octopuses, have lost this ability.

When the need arises, octopuses squirt this ink together with a jet of water and are able to guide the direction of the squirt. The result is a cloud of ink, which is used defensively as a visual screen or a distraction to predators. The ink also contains a compound, tyrosinase, which irritates predators' eyes and paralyzes their sense of smell temporarily.

The color of the ink (melanin) is red, but when it is more concentrated, it becomes darker, changing to brown and even to black. Since red appears black in low-light, many night active or deep-sea cephalopods produce only red or brown ink.

An interesting discussion of octopus ink and the ink of other cephalopods can be found in Cephalopods, a World Guide.

What is Fountain Pen Ink?

The ink that we use in fountain pens or ball-point pens today bears little resemblance to octopus ink. In it's simplest form, the ink we write with is a pigment or dye and a binder. The first ink for writing and drawing was invented...
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About the Author
Nancy
Nancy has an interest in all things cephy but especially octopus behavior. She maintains two saltwater aquariums and has kept O. bimaculoides and O. briareus as well as many other invertebrates. She joined the TONMO.com staff in March 2002 with a background in management, editing and technical writing in technology companies. She enjoys helping people with ceph keeping, including writing articles. Nancy also has a strong background in art and currently works in precious metals and watercolor with a goal of producing high quality art with marine themes. She holds an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin and presently lives in Dallas, Texas - only five hours from the Gulf!

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