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Squids are size champions

...In the nerve fibre world

A cephalopod adventure

When you think of squids, you probably imagine them swimming through the ocean and using tentacles to catch their prey. Scientists might not!

These slimy sea creatures have helped us to study and understand how our own nervous system works.

That’s right, squids are more than just tasty seafood.

Squids have a giant axon, which is a single nerve fiber that is much larger than the axons found in other animals, including humans. This giant axon can be up to one millimeter in diameter, which is big enough to be seen with the naked eye.

If you’re thinking that 1 millimeter is still pretty small, consider that human axons are measured in micrometers (µm), so the squid’s giant axons are almost one thousand times larger in diameter than ours.

In case you’re wondering what an axon is, it’s the long projection of a neuron that conducts electrical impulses away from the cell body.

The electrical impulses generated during an action potential travel down the axon and make their way to the synapse. So the axon is a vital component of the nervous system that helps facilitate communication between neurons and other cells.

In 1963, the English scientists Hodgkin and Huxley were awarded the Nobel Prize for their groundbreaking experiments on squid giant axons.

Through their work, they provided a detailed understanding of the electrical properties of axon membranes and the role of ion channels in generating and propagating nerve impulses. They also discovered that the giant axon is surrounded by a thick layer of insulation called myelin, which speeds up the transmission of nerve impulses.

Their research has been fundamental to the development of modern neurophysiology.

So, the next time you enjoy a plate of calamari, remember that the squid on your plate might have contributed to our understanding of the nervous system.

By Viviana Greco

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