Shrimp Eyes Polarize Light Just Like a DVD Player, Only Better

By Brett Israel | October 26, 2009 4:23 pm

mantis-shrimpA new discovery about how mantis shrimp process light could give rise to new and more powerful consumer electronics, according to a new study. Mantis shrimp possess the animal kingdom’s most complicated eyes, capable of distinguishing between 100,000 colors — 10 times as many as humans — and seeing circular polarized light, or CPL, which can’t be detected by any other creature []. Circular polarized light is one of two forms of polarized light, or light waves that travel in a specific plane.

The specialized CPL detecting cells in shrimp eye are similar to the optical detectors found in DVD players; each can convert polarized light into other forms so it can be stored or processed. However, shrimp eyes can do this with all colors of circular polarized light across the spectrum, according to the study in Nature Photonics. The detectors in DVD and CD players can only recognize circular polarized light in a few colors. The research team thinks that in the future, optics devices might be beefed up by chemically engineered crystals that could mimic the light polarizing cells of the mantis shrimp eye.

Mantis shrimp eyes are composed of hundreds of compartments, each with a photoreceptor that can detect visible light and turn it into a signal the brain can read.  But … mantis shrimp also have a special group of photoreceptors, known as R8 cells, which can also detect UV and polarized light [ABC News]. The mantis shrimp is one of the few animals that reflects circular polarized light off its skin; since other shrimp can see that reflected light, it serves a communication function. Says lead researcher Justin Marshall: “They’re talking to each other with a secret light channel” [ABC News].

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Image: flickr / CybersamX

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Technology
  • Ian


  • vcbx

    kill them all before they take over the world

  • YouRang

    There’s only one kind of polarized light; linear and circular polarization are just 2 special cases of elliptical polarization.

  • Fat kid

    That is why their eyes are so delicious!

    I bet Yourang is the guy who gives out apples on Halloween instead of candy.

  • Román

    @vcbx Let me guess… you’re from USA isn’t?

  • Yes we can

    Roman, America is only kicking butts now because we have the power. Which ever country you live in has either kicked butts when it had power, or was settled by one that has. Just because someone resents us, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t trade places with an American in a heartbeat.

    I don’t advocate violence, our aggressive tendencies make me glad that our civilization will crumble before we leave Earth.


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