Mantis shrimp can see the world in a way that had never been observed in any animal before, researchers report in the March 20th Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. The discoverywhich marks the fourth type of visual systemsuggests that the ability to perceive circular polarized light may lend mantis shrimp a secret mode of communication.
Mantis shrimp ventured into a new dimension of vision, said Justin Marshall of the University of Queensland in Australia. Also known as stomatopods, mantis shrimp are large and particularly violent marine crustaceans that arent actually a kind of shrimp but look something like one.
Marshall describes circular polarized light as a spiraling beam that spins either to the left or the right. Scientists had shown before that some animals, such as scarab beetles, reflect that kind of light, but they hadnt shown that any animal could actually see ituntil now, that is.
Its complicated physics, Marshall said, but that makes it all the more amazing that some animals would use it for something. Using it required the stomatopods to evolve a kind of filter in their eyes oriented at a precise 45 degree angle to photoreceptors underneath that pick up on linearly polarized light. The filter turns the circularly polarized light into its linear form. Many animals make use of linearly polarized light, Marshall said. To people, however, it is only glare, hence the need for polarized sun glasses.
In the new study, the researchers describe the anatomical basis for stomatopods remarkable vision in detail and show that these structures are stimulated when circular polarized light shines into them. They also offer behavioral proof of the stomatopods ability by training them to associate either left-handed or right-handed circular polarized light (L-CPL or R-CPL) with a food reward.
During tests, when no food was present, the researchers presented the animals with two feeding tubes, one reflecting L-CPL a
|Contact: Cathleen Genova|