Is the ink from octopus and squid toxic?



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    Ink release by cephalopods, including octopus and squid, tends to be of two different types. In the first type, a cloud of ink is released, creating something like a smokescreen, which allows the cephalopod to escape attack. In the second type, called “pseudomorphs,” the ink is released with a small amound of mucus, causing the ink to blotch into separate globules, which look similar to the cephalopod. This often results in the predator attacking the blotches instead of the actual cephalopod.

    The ink itself contains a number of chemicals. Melanin is the darkening agent in the ink, and mucus is present in some, as I mentioned previously. Some inks contain tyrosinase, which may irritate predators’ chemosensory systems. Dopamine, as well as L-DOPA have been found in some inks, as well as various amino acids.

    Some food colorings use derivatives of cephalopod inks, which may suggest that they are not toxic. However, studies (specifically, page 281, 282) suggest it may be toxic to some cells, specifically tumor cells, microbes, and retroviruses.

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