Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Animal behaviour

Polarized light as a secret signal

Subjects

Some crustaceans can detect polarized light, using it as a covert signal that is invisible to predators.

Credit: With Permission from Elsevier

Yakir Luc Gagnon at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, found that the bodies of mantis shrimps (Gonodactylaceus falcatus; pictured) reflect a distinctive pattern of circular polarization (pictured in red) that is visible only to other shrimps. When presented with different burrows in the laboratory, mantis shrimps avoided or delayed entering those that were lit with circularly polarized light compared with those under unpolarized light. This suggests that the shrimps use polarized light cues to sense whether potential burrows are occupied.

In another study, Martin How at the University of Bristol, UK, found that male fiddler crabs (Uca stenodactylus) detected polarized targets in the wild from farther away than non-polarized ones. The animals' sensitivity to polarized light could be boosting the visual contrast between crabs and their mudflat habitat.

Curr. Biol. http://doi.org/89c (2015); http://doi.org/89d (2015)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Polarized light as a secret signal. Nature 527, 278 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/527278c

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/527278c

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing