Lookin’ good. How mantis shrimp maximise polarisation (VIDEO)

Gaze stabilisation is an almost ubiquitous animal behaviour, one that is required to see the world clearly and without blur. Stomatopods, however, only fix their eyes on scenes or objects of interest occasionally. Almost uniquely among animals they explore their visual environment with a series of pitch, yaw and torsional (roll) rotations of their eyes, where each eye may also move largely independently of the other.

In this work, researchers demonstrate that the torsional rotations are used to actively enhance the mantis shrimps’ ability to see the polarisation of light. Both Gonodactylus smithii and Odontodactylus scyllarus rotate their eyes to align particular photoreceptors relative to the angle of polarisation of a linearly polarised visual stimulus, thereby maximising the polarisation contrast between an object of interest and its background.

This is the first documented example of any animal displaying dynamic polarisation vision, in which the polarisation information is actively maximised through rotational eye movements.





Daly, I. M. et al. Dynamic polarization vision in mantis shrimps. Nat. Commun. 7:12140 doi: 10.1038/ncomms12140 (2016).  http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms…


Discover the story behind the research through the scientist’s eyes, subscribe to Biosphere digital magazine for access to in-depth articles that bring the natural world to life.