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While color signals are well known as a form of animal communication, a number of animals communicate using signals based on patterns of polarized light reflected from specialized body parts or structures. Mantis shrimps, a group of marine crustaceans, have evolved a great diversity of such signals, several of which are based on photonic structures. These include resonant scattering devices, structures based on layered dichroic molecules, and structures that use birefringent layers to produce circular polarization. Such biological polarizers operate in different spectral regions ranging from the near-UV to medium wavelengths of visible light. In addition to the structures that are specialized for signal production, the eyes of many species of mantis shrimp are adapted to detect linearly polarized light in the ultraviolet and in the green, using specialized sets of photoreceptors with oriented, dichroic visual pigments. Finally, a few mantis shrimp species produce biophotonic retarders within their photoreceptors that permit the detection of circularly polarized light and are thus the only animals known to sense this form of polarization. Mantis shrimps use polarized light in species-specific signals related to mating and territorial defense, and their means of manipulating light's polarization can inspire designs for artificial polarizers and achromatic retarders.
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Polarization signals in mantis shrimps
Thomas W. Cronin*a, Tsyr-Huei Chioua,b, Roy L. Caldwellc, Nicholas Robertsd, Justin Marshallb
aDept. of Biological Sciences, UMBC, Baltimore, MD, USA 21250; bQBI, Univ. of Queensland,
Brisbane, Australia 4072; cDept. of Integrative Biology, Univ. of California, Berkeley, CA 94720;
dThe Photon Science Institute, Univ. of Manchester, Manchester, UK M13 9PL
ABSTRACT
While color signals are well known as a form of animal communication, a number of animals communicate using
signals based on patterns of polarized light reflected from specialized body parts or structures. Mantis shrimps, a group
of marine crustaceans, have evolved a great diversity of such signals, several of which are based on photonic structures.
These include resonant scattering devices, structures based on layered dichroic molecules, and structures that use
birefringent layers to produce circular polarization. Such biological polarizers operate in different spectral regions
ranging from the near-UV to medium wavelengths of visible light. In addition to the structures that are specialized for
signal production, the eyes of many species of mantis shrimp are adapted to detect linearly polarized light in the
ultraviolet and in the green, using specialized sets of photoreceptors with oriented, dichroic visual pigments. Finally, a
few mantis shrimp species produce biophotonic retarders within their photoreceptors that permit the detection of
circularly polarized light and are thus the only animals known to sense this form of polarization. Mantis shrimps use
polarized light in species-specific signals related to mating and territorial defense, and their means of manipulating
light’s polarization can inspire designs for artificial polarizers and achromatic retarders.
Keywords: biophotonic, biomimetic, polarizer, retarder, signal, mantis shrimp, stomatopod, dichroic, birefringent
1. INTRODUCTION
Almost all animals with well developed visual systems recognize and use visually-based signals in their communication
systems. Such signals incorporate prominent pattern elements, most often based on intensity or color contrast.
However, a few species of animals produce signals based on patterns of polarized light1,2. Such signals may be
preferred in specific lighting or viewing conditions, when color-based signals would be unreliable, and are used for
species identification and for aggressive or sexual communication. The circumstances that favor the use of polarization
signals, the visual designs that are necessary to interpret them, and the very unusual biological structures that actually
produce the polarized-light patterns are inherently interesting, but these aspects of polarization signaling are also of
special interest to optical engineers because they suggest approaches to the use of polarization in communication and
particularly because some of the biological designs are quite unlike those used in industry to produce and control light’s
polarization. In this paper, we will briefly review the contexts within which animals have evolved polarization-based
visual signals and touch on the visual detectors they use. We will then discuss in detail a few of the biological
polarizers and optical devices used in the production and control of polarized light.
1.1 Photic environments that favor the use of visual signals based on polarized light
Even though there are no natural light sources that produce significant amounts of polarized light visible at the earth’s
surface, linearly polarized light is abundant in natural scenes3. In terrestrial environments, the frequently complex
appearance of polarization due to atmospheric scattering and the reflection from shiny surfaces of leaves and water
limits the utility of polarization signaling. To date, the only terrestrial animals known to use polarization patterns for
communication are a group of tropical butterflies4. These butterflies produce polarization reflections using oriented
structures in their wing scales, and closely related species either possess or lack such reflections in correlation with their
habitats. Butterflies that use polarization signals typically fly under the forest canopy, where polarization noise from
local scattering or reflection is nearly absent, so the polarization signal is unique and prominent.
Polarization Science and Remote Sensing IV, edited by Joseph A. Shaw, J. Scott Tyo,
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While it seems likely that other terrestrial animals have discovered polarizational signals, no examples besides
butterflies have yet been identified. In the marine environment, however (but not yet in freshwater), two highly
successful groups of marine invertebrates are known to use a diverse set of signals based on polarized light. These are
the stomatopod crustaceans, or mantis shrimps5, whose polarizers and optical retarders are described in this report, and
the cephalopod molluscs (squids and cuttlefishes)6,7. The submarine environment is particularly favorable for the use of
signals formed from polarized light for two reasons. First, as depth increases, the spectrum of light arriving from
overhead increasingly narrows, making reflective color signals unreliable and at greater depths, useless. Second, there
is a relatively weak linearly polarized-light field present, especially at greater depths, and at such depths the polarization
pattern is quite constant8,9. Considering these advantages, it is likely that other animals living in the deep sea have
evolved other forms of signals based on polarized light, potentially including bioluminescent signals.
1.2 Polarized-light photoreceptors
All known visual photoreceptors capture light using members of a single protein family, the opsins, and all opsins are
located in photoreceptor membranes and use derivatives of molecules in the vitamin A family as chromophores to
capture light. Because of their chemical structure, all such chromophores are naturally dichroic, and when joined to the
opsin their absorption dipoles extend roughly parallel (within ±20º) to the membrane. Thus, single molecules of visual
pigment respond differentially to polarized light, being stimulated most readily by photons whose electric field vectors
(e-vectors) are parallel to the chromophore’s preferred axis. Photoreceptor cells contain huge numbers of visual
pigment molecules, so the only way for the entire cell to have polarization sensitivity (in the absence of external
manipulation of polarized light in some way) is for there to be a non-random alignment of preferred absorption axes for
the population of visual pigment molecules as a whole.
The polarized-light photoreceptors of cephalopods and stomatopods have similar adaptations that confer the desired
alignment of visual pigment absorption dipoles. First, the visual pigments are located in the membranes of microvilli,
minute cylinders that extend stiffly from the rest of the cell, held out by a central cytoskeletal axis, and their
chromophores tend to be aligned roughly parallel to the microvillar axis10. It is not clear how this alignment is achieved
or maintained, but the result is that each microvillus as a whole is dichroic, preferentially absorbing light polarized
parallel to it. A second level of specialization is that, in cells that are specialized to detect polarized light, all microvilli
of a single cell are themselves parallel. Most animals with polarized-light sensitivity have two populations of
polarization receptors, with their microvilli extending orthogonal to each other. This two-axis organization cannot fully
analyze light’s polarization (linearly polarized light of a given wavelength has three components: overall intensity,
degree of polarization, and angle of polarization, requiring three receptor classes for full analysis), but the arrangement
is usually acceptable for analyzing linearly polarized-light signals because the signals commonly are strongly polarized
and have a determined angle of polarization.
Until quite recently, the only type of polarization sensitivity recognized in animals was in response to linearly polarized
light. However, a few species of mantis shrimps have been found to be capable of analyzing circularly polarized light
as well11. Not surprisingly, the same species produce circularly polarized signals. As will be described below, the
circular polarization signaling structures are built using one of the common types of biological linear polarizers in
conjunction with a quarter-wave retarder layer. Similarly, the analyzing receptors are actually modified receptor types
with the same organization used for two-axis linear polarization analysis. These are mated to a unique, biophotonic
device that acts as an achromatic quarter-wave retarder, converting incoming circularly polarized light to linearly
polarized and thereby enabling photoreceptors that would normally be insensitive to circular polarization to discriminate
right-handed from left-handed types.
2. LINEAR POLARIZERS IN STOMATOPOD CRUSTACEANS
2.1 Polarizers based on the dichroic carotenoid molecule, astaxanthin
Two types of linear polarizers, based on quite different optical principles, have been found so far in stomatopod
crustaceans. The first type, described in this section, is thought to use a naturally dichroic molecule in an ordered
arrangement to produce partially linearly polarized light with its spectral peak slightly below 500 nm. An example of a
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stomatopod appendage that contains this type of polarizer, together with typical polarization spectra of light reflected
from it, is illustrated in Figure 1. A pair of these appendages, called antennal scales, project laterally from the anterior
regions of most stomatopods, but the polarization is observed in only a few species – here, in Odontodactylus scyllarus.
Note that the polarization of reflected light is very weak when the antennal scale is viewed on an axis normal to its
surface, but that the polarization increases dramatically as the object tilts away and is viewed increasingly obliquely to
the surface.
Figure 1. Polarization properties of the left antennal scale of the stomatopod crustacean Odontodactylus scyllarus. A. A photograph
of a living animal showing the location of the right antennal scale. B. Image pairs obtained when viewing the left antennal
scale under oblique illumination at various angles of tilt. The upper row shows the appearance in horizontal polarization and
the lower row shows vertical polarization. Note how the scale looks darker and redder in vertical polarization as it is tilted. C.
Linear polarization spectra obtained at these three tilt angles. Note that the polarization nas a relatively narrow peak near 500
nm. D. Modeled polarization spectra at the same angles based on the absorption spectrum of astaxanthin and assuming that
the dipole axes of the astaxanthin molecules are all perpendicular to the surface.
Besides the obvious change in the degree of polarization, the reflected polarized light displays a strong spectral peak,
suggesting that it is produced either by a strongly filtering substance or by a highly ordered structure. To discover how
the polarization originates, we examined the internal structure of the O. scyllarus antennal scale. A vertical section of
this structure (cut directly through the scale’s thickness perpendicular to the long axis of the scale) is illustrated in
Figure 2A. We found no evidence of multilayered structure of sufficient order to produce the polarization reflections.
However, when the sectioned material was examined through a rotating linear polarizer, one region of the cross section,
colored pink to our eyes, was found to be dichroic. This layer occurred just above the central core of the scale, which
contains dense chitin and acts as a reflector of incident light coming from either side of the scale.
The pink color of the dichroic material suggested the presence of astaxanthin, a ketocarotenoid that is found in many
crustacean tissues12. Astaxanthin is a long molecule, like other carotenoids consisting of a repeated chain of conjugated
double bonds (see Figure 2C). This structure is strongly dichroic, because the linear chain readily interacts with light
having an e-vector parallel to the chain’s axis, but absorbs other planes of polarization more weakly. Astaxanthin
actually forms three stereoisomers, based on the angle of the hydroxyl groups to the rings, but all are similarly dichroic
to linearly polarized light (two of these stereoisomers also show circular dichroism, which is not relevant here). In
biological membranes, molecules of astaxanthin are of the correct size to span the lipid bilayer, and thus sit vertically
within the membrane with the hydrophilic ring structures embedded in the glycerol surfaces of biomembranes and the
hydrophobic conjugated axis extending through the internal phospholipid tails13,14. Thus, in flat membrane layers, all
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the dipole axes of the astaxanthin molecules are parallel but are perpendicular to the plane of the membrane. The
dichroism of artificial lipid bilayers containing astaxanthin has been measured by Gruszecki14, whose results suggest
that the astaxanthin is oriented nearly perpendicular to the membrane plane, as predicted.
Figure 2. Astaxanthin in the antennal scale of Odontodactylus scyllarus. A. A natural-color photograph of a freshly sectioned scale
of O. scyllarus, with the plane of section across the thickness of the scale and perpendicular to its long axis. A layer of
pinkish dichroic material is located in the top half of the scale. B. The absorption spectrum of an acetone extract from a
dried scale (triangles) compared to the absorption spectrum of pure astaxanthin (smooth line). The spectra are virtually
identical. C. The molecular structure of astaxanthin. There are three stereoisomers of this compound (varying with the
angles of the bonds of the OH groups relative to the plane of the rings), but all have the extended polyene chain connecting
the rings and all are linearly dichroic.
The polarization spectrum of the intact scale is quite similar to the absorption spectrum of astaxanthin, further
suggesting that this molecule could be producing the polarization by interacting with light entering the scale and
reflecting from the central core layers. While each lipid bilayer absorbs light rather weakly, the thickness of the
material in the scale, which presumably contains many layers (Fig. 2A) would produce much stronger overall
absorption. A simple mathematical model of the changing degree of polarization with tilt, assuming that the dipoles are
parallel to each other and perpendicular to the surface, predicts polarization spectra much like those of the intact scale
(Fig. 1D). The spectra of the intact scale are somewhat broader than spectra produced by astaxanthin alone, suggesting
that some of the polarization originates from dielectric reflection of light within the scale, or from its surface, as well.
To identify the pigment within the scale, we extracted a dried scale with astaxanthin and compared the absorption
spectrum of the extracted material with that of a sample of purified astaxanthin. As is evident in Figure 2B, the spectra
are virtually identical, confirming the presence of this pigment in the scale. Furthermore, this extraction eliminated the
ability of the scale to polarize light, strongly suggesting that the polarizer is indeed astaxanthin. To our knowledge, this
is the first example of a biological signal based on linearly polarized light produced by transmission through an oriented
dichroic organic molecule. These red-colored polarizers are widespread among species of mantis shrimps, and we
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hypothesize that all are based on oriented arrays of astaxanthin molecules. This is the type of polarizer used with a
delay plate to form the circular polarizers found in some stomatopod species as well, described below.
2.2 Polarizers thought to be based on scattering photonic structures
A second type of reflecting polarizer found in a number of mantis shrimp species is apparently based on resonant
scattering from arrays of ovoid vesicles beneath the animals’ cuticles. These polarizers tend to be relatively small
compared to the dichroic type, forming bright blue-colored spots on the animal’s body. They return highly polarized
light with the e-vector orientation most commonly horizontal when the polarizer is displayed by the animal. A typical
example, from Haptosquilla trispinosa, is illustrated in Figure 3A. Note the very bright pair of polarizers on a specific
pair of cleaning appendages (the first maxillipeds) on the lower part the animal’s anterior end. Interestingly, while this
species has other blue-reflecting spots on its body, the only polarizers are the pair below the eyes.
Figure 3. Scattering polarizers in stomatopod crustaceans. A. Anterior view of Haptosquilla trispinosa, showing the bright blue
polarizers under the eyes (arrow). B. Electron micrograph to show the small vesicles that make up this type of polarizer. This
image is from a section cut through the polarizer, parallel to its long axis and vertical to the cuticle. Inset: Vesicles at high
magnification. Scale: 0.5 µm. C. Spectral features of the reflection and polarization.
Electron-microscopic examination of the polarizer reveals that it consists of several layers of parallel streams of vesicles
backed with dark screening pigment and overlain by a transparent cuticle (Fig. 3B). These vesicles are arranged with
their long axes parallel to the axis of the polarizer and perpendicular to the plane of polarization which it returns. The
spectral features of the reflected light are graphed in Figure 3C, which shows that the polarization has a constant
horizontal e-vector angle across the visible spectrum, with polarization reaching a maximum near 70% in the blue-
green. Unlike the dichroic type of polarizer, in oblique lighting these scattering types reflect nearly constant
polarization over a wide range of viewing angles.
If the polarizer is separated from its dark pigmentary backing, it reveals an unexpected property: the device acts as a
polarizing beamsplitter, in its orientation in life transmitting vertically polarized light (relative to the long axes of the
vesicles and of the blue polarizer as a whole) and reflecting horizontally polarized light (Fig. 4). This observation is
consistent with a scattering system that is strongly dependent on the scale of the vesicles; in the shorter dimension
presented in cross-section, the vesicles interact optimally with medium-wavelength light whose e-vector is parallel to
the shorter cross-sectional radius, back-scattering it and thus, in its natural orientation, producing a horizontally
polarized reflection (see Fig. 4B for measurements). If this hypothesis is correct, then longer-wavelength rays should
interact with the vesicles in the opposite plane, encountering a properly scaled, longer, scattering system offered by the
long axes of the vesicles. This would shift the plane of polarization from vertical to horizontal at longer wavelengths
(Fig. 4C), with the point of the cross-over determined by the relative diameters and lengths of vesicles. Measurements
of reflected polarization at longer wavelengths confirm this prediction, strongly suggesting that the polarization
properties of this type of polarizer depend on the scale of the system.
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Figure 4. Schematics of the scattering polarizer of Haptosquilla trispinosa, together with measured e-vector orientations of
polarization spectra. In parts A and C, dotted rays are polarized perpendicular to the plane of the page and thick lines are
polarized parallel to this plane. A,B. Transmission and reflection of short-to-medium wavelength light. Here, the vesicles are
viewed end-on, so the cross sections are circular. The polarizer separates vertically from horizontally polarized light, as
illustrated by actual data in panel B. The e-vector angle is constant throughout the visible spectrum. C,D. Transmission and
reflection of short-to-mediium wavelength light and long-wavelength light (>850 nm). The vesicles are viewed side-on,
showing the oval section. The situation in panel C is the same for short-to-medium wavelengths as in panel A, but since the
viewpoint is rotated by 90°, transmitted and reflected rays in C are orthogonal to what is illustrated in A. Long-wavelength rays
encounter vesicles in a longer dimension, and are hypothesized to interact with them most effectively when the polarization is
parallel to the vesicle’s long axis. Panel D shows that, consistent with this hypothesis, the observed polarization of reflected
long-wavelength rays is perpendicular to that of short-to-medium wavelength rays.
We are currently working to model theoretically the performance of this device, as it may serve to inspire artificial
micropolarizers with the desirable ability to separate orthogonal planes of linearly polarized light as well as light within
different spectral ranges. The device has the additional attraction of having relatively little angular variation, polarizing
light arriving from over a broad angular range and returning polarization over a similarly wide angular coverage. The
dimensions of the vesicles and of the array within which they occur have been measured, and we expect the refractive
index of the ground material to be typical of cytoplasm, with n ~1.38 or so (see Figure 5). The major unconstrained
parameter is the refractive index of the material within the vesicles, which is likely to be fairly high, as their contents are
probably either lipids or a concentrated protein solution. However, the actual refractive index value of these materials
can be allowed to vary freely in our theoretical model, with the expectation that only a limited range of values will
produce the observed optical properties of the complete structure.
Figure 5. Schematic to represent the array of vesicles making up the polarizer of H. trispinosa and similar species of stomatopod
crustaceans. The dimensions of the vesicles and their placement within the array are given, and the refractive index of the
surrounding material is likely to be similar to that of cytoplasm in general (~1.38). The major unknown is the refractive index of the
material within the vesicles. Note that the vesicles have a constant cross-sectional radius of ~300 μm and that the array extends
indefinitely to the right and left and also out of the plane of the page. There are about six layers of vesicles stacked vertically, of
which two are illustrated here.
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3. A CIRCULAR POLARIZER IN ONE SPECIES OF MANTIS SHRIMP
Besides the two classes of linear polarizers discussed thus far, a few mantis shrimp species produce circularly polarized
reflections, which appear to be used as sexual signals11. Surprisingly, the mechanism used to form these is unlike that
described in the few other biological systems that reflect circularly polarized light. The previously best-described
biological circular polarizers exist in the cuticles of scarab beetles, which usually reflect left-handed circularly polarized
light through most of the spectrum15. The circular polarization is achieved by the passage of light through successive
layers of material, each with its molecular axes slightly twisted relative its neighbors, giving an overall organization
analogous to that of cholesteric liquid crystals16,17,18. There is no evidence that the beetles can visually analyze their
circularly polarized-light reflections, so their function (if any) is unclear, although it is reasonable to hypothesize that
the mechanism, which can produce nearly perfectly circularity15, might have evolved to achieve a color signal free of
potentially contaminating linear polarization. The only previous crustacean example of a circular polarizer, and indeed,
the only well-described example of any kind outside the scarab beetles, is found in the inter-segmental membranes
separating the abdominal segments of spiny lobsters. Here, reflection of circularly polarized light is achieved by layers
of chitin microfibrils in the relatively transparent cuticle of these animals, by form optical rotary dispersion19. While
this structure might have an adaptive mechanical function, it plays no known role in visual signaling.
Figure 6. The keel of a male Odontodactylus cultrifer. The top photograph shows the location of this keel in a live animal (arrow).
In the lower sets of images, the double-headed arrows show the plane of linear polarization transmitted by the polarizing filter
(left), while the handedness of circularly polarized light (CPL) is indicated on each appropriate panel (right). Both sides of the
keel transmit vertically polarized light, but the transmitted circularly polarized light has opposite handedness when viewed from
the keel’s right and left sides, favoring left handed CPL on the left and right handed CPL on the right.
The stomatopod crustaceans that use circularly polarized light in their signals adopt a technique commonly used in the
optics laboratory, but not previously encountered in nature. They combine a linear polarizer (in this case, one based on
dichroism as in Section 2.1, above) with a quarter-wave retarder. The overall result is illustrated in Figure 6, which
shows the “keel” of a male stomatopod Odontodactylus cultrifer (this keel extends vertically from the telson, or tail
plate, of the animal). The polarization is strongly elliptical, having major contributions of both circularly and linearly
polarized components, but the circularity has the unexpected feature, not seen in other animals, of having opposite
handedness depending on the side from which the structure is viewed. Acetone extraction of the keel shows that it
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contains astaxanthin, and the removal of this pigment destroys the polarization, so in some ways this structure is similar
to the polarizer of the antennal scale of the closely related O. scyllarus. However, in this case, the polarization is
strongest when the keel is viewed orthogonally, not at glancing angles, suggesting that the astaxanthin must be oriented
parallel to the surface of the structure, and thus that the membranes within which this pigment lies must extend
somewhat perpendicular to this surface.
Figure 7. The circular polarizer in the keel of Odontodactylus cultrifer. A. A surface view of one-half of the keel, seen from the
center of the vertical structure, which has been split so that the left half contains only the retarder layer and the right half
has both the retarder and the dichroic polarizer. The double-headed arrows suggest the axis of the “grain” of each
component. Note that the membranes in the polarizer run vertically in the image, while the general structure of the retarder
is oriented at 45º to this, an ideal orientation to form a circular polarizer when light is transmitted through. B. A schematic
to show the overall organization of the keel, with the polarizers placed medially and the retarders toward each surface on
each face, illustrating how the structure would produce circularly or elliptically polarized light of opposite handedness on
its two sides, whether the light is transmitted through it or reflected from it.
If the keel is split down its middle, and one half taken from this split is carefully separated into its layers, it becomes
clear that the circular polarizer has a medial linearly polarizing layer overlain by a clear retarding layer at 45 degrees to
it (Fig. 7A). We have found that the clear material, seen on the left half of Figure 7A, is birefringent, with the fast and
slow axes at the proper 45º to the linear polarizer; this layer probably contains oriented crystals of calcite, a birefringent
material commonly found in crustacean cuticle. With the polarizing material transmitting vertically polarized light (Fig.
6A) and the retarder’s fast axis at 45º and parallel on both sides of the keel, the structure would produce elliptically
polarized light of opposite handedness on either size, whether viewed in transmitted or reflected light (Fig. 7B). The
keel is thought to serve in either species identification or sexual signaling (or both)11.
4. QUARTER-WAVE RETARDERS IN MANTIS SHRIMP EYES
If circularly polarized light is to be useful as a visual signal, it must be detected, and presumably analyzed, by
photoreceptors of the intended receiver. As described earlier, receptors sensitive to linearly polarized light are common
in crustaceans. In the laboratory, a common technique used to convert a linear polarization detector to one responsive to
circularly polarized light is to place a quarter-wave retarder in front of the linear polarizer with its fast and slow axes
oriented at 45º to the preferred axis of the polarizer. The retarder converts circularly to linearly polarized light, which
can then be analyzed by the polarization detector – typically, two detectors with orthogonal linear polarization axes are
used to analyze the degree of left vs. right circular polarization for example, for measurements of the Stokes vector S3.
By definition, quarter-wave retarders are designed for a single wavelength of light (because they are scaled to ¼
wavelength), so typical retarders are monochromatic. By combining materials with different dispersions, the spectral
range can be extended to about 100 nm or so, and some man-made retarders based on sub-wavelength gratings are
achromatic for about double this range at visible wavelengths20.
We have located a quarter-wave retarder in polarization-sensitive ommatidia of the stomatopod O. scyllarus, and have
found similar structures in the homologous ommatidia of many other stomatopod species. This retarder is built from a
series of parallel microvilli, constructed from a photoreceptor cell that overlies other linear polarization receptors11. The
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cell forming the retarder contains an ultraviolet-light-sensitive visual pigment, so it normally functions as an ultraviolet
photoreceptor. However, its unidirectional microvilli are birefringent, as in typical arthropod photoreceptors21, giving
it an inbuilt ability to retard circularly polarized light (Fig. 8A,B); the degree of retardance thus depends on the length of
the microvillar stack. Measurements of the optical properties of this cell show that it acts as a nearly perfect quarter-
wave retarder (Fig. 8C).
Figure 8. Retardation by the microvillar structures associated with circular-polarization-sensitive photoreceptors in mantis shrimp
eyes. A. Transmission or extinction of light through crossed polaroids above and below the tissue sample, at two angles.
Note that light is transmitted only when the polarizers are at 45° to the axes of the oval cross sections of the receptor cells
(indicated by arrowheads), indicating that these are birefringent. B. Illustration of how this microvillar structure converts
circularly polarized light to linearly polarized light with an e-vector angle at 45° to the microvillar axes. The inset indicates
how the microvilli extend across the minor axis of the elliptical cross-section of the receptors. C. Graph illustrating a
preliminary comparison between experimental and theoretical retardation calculated for the R8 cell structure.
A remarkable feature of this biological device is that it shows very little spectral variation in retardance over a range of
wavelengths from 400 to 700 nm (Fig. 8C), quite unlike the man-made optical retarders described above. We have
begun to explore the properties of the microvillar stack that confer this achromaticity. Our preliminary results suggest
that in this periodic microvillous nanostructure, the intrinsic birefringence in the lipid membrane tubules and form
birefringence of the packing offset each other to produce dispersion in the overall birefringence that cancels the
changing wavelength effects, resulting in constant retardation. Unusually, both the absolute values of the intrinsic
membrane refractive indices and the overall length of the structures determine the retardation for the broad range of
wavelengths. In fact, the lengths of these cells vary among stomatopod species, which suggests that the relative
sensitivities of the underlying photoreceptors to linearly vs. circularly polarized light also varies among species.
Understanding this variation is important for working out how the stomatopod crustaceans use polarized light both for
signaling and for other aspects of their visual ecology.
6. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
The mantis shrimps, or stomatopod crustaceans, have compound eyes with the most complicated sets of receptors yet
described for any animal, including up to six receptor types specialized to detect ultraviolet light, eight used for color
vision in the human “visible” spectrum, and four specialized for polarized-light analysis22. It is appropriate that in
concert with their unusually well-developed polarization sense, they have evolved communication systems based on
displays of patterns of polarized light. However, the optical mechanisms used to produce the polarization have not
previously been described in living systems, and at least one mechanism they use (the putative resonant scattering
mechanism) seems to have no counterpart in either natural or artificial systems. These animals are also unique in their
ability to produce signals based on circularly polarized light of either rotational handedness. Not only is their circular-
polarization vision apparently unique among animals, but the optical devices they have evolved that permit them to
achieve this visual modality outperform the currently available artificial counterparts. These and potentially other
features of the stomatopods serve as inspiration for new technical approaches for controlling polarized light.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This work is based on research supported by the National Science Foundation under grant number IOS 0721608 and by
the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under grants number FA9550-06-1-0117 and FA9550-09-1-0149. JM is
supported by the Australian Research Council and AOARD.
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Proc. of SPIE Vol. 7461 74610C-10
... Polarization information is abundant in both terrestrial and aquatic environments, with many animals using this channel of information for a wide range of visual tasks including navigation [1,2,3], communication [4,5,6,7] and visual contrast enhancement [8,9,10]. However, visualising the polarization of light in the natural environment and understanding the ecological and behavioural relevance has proved challenging. ...
... Polarization upon reflection is most dominant in terrestrial environments, where the mismatch in refractive indices of air and an object is greater than in aquatic environments. 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 A c c e p t e d M a n u s c r i p t Biological optical structures in the skin or carapace of animals can also affect the polarization of reflected light For example, some species of stomatopod crustacean manipulate the DoP and AoP of the reflected light from their antennal scales [17] and first maxillipeds [18] through the optical properties of ordered lattices of the dichroic carotenoid molecules and anisotropic ordered vesicles respectively [5]. Other nanoscale architectures create structural reflections and colouration which have also been adapted to create biological polarizers. ...
... Other nanoscale architectures create structural reflections and colouration which have also been adapted to create biological polarizers. Some biological optical structures can affect the ellipticity of reflected light, for instance the chiral structures of the chitin of species of scarab beetles preferentially reflect either left-or right-handed circularly polarized light [19,20], as does the telson of the stomatopod crustacean Gonodactylaceus falcatus [5,21]. ...
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The accuracy of calculations of both the degree and angle of polarization depend strongly on the noise in the measurements used. The noise in the measurements recorded by both camera based systems and spectrometers can lead to significant artefacts and incorrect conclusions about high degrees of polarization when in fact none exist. Three approaches are taken in this work: Firstly, the absolute error introduced as a function of the signal to noise ratio for polarization measurements is quantified in detail. An important finding here is the reason for why several studies incorrectly suggest that black (low reflectivity) objects are highly polarized. The high degree of polarization is only an artefact of the noise in the calculation. Secondly, several simple steps to avoid such errors are suggested. Thirdly, if these points can't be followed, two methods are presented for mitigating the effects of noise: a maximum likelihood estimation method and a new denoising algorithm to best calculate the degree of polarization of natural polarization information.
... Contrast vision is not limited to object detection. There is also evidence that polarisation-sensitive species of cephalopod mollusc and stomatopod crustacean display polarised body patterns that act as visual signals (Shashar et al. 1996;Cronin et al. 2009;Chiou et al. 2011;How et al. 2014b;Gagnon et al. 2015). In the case of circularly polarised carapace reflections in stomatopods (see Biological Polarizers), these signals would represent a private communication channel that even other polarisation-sensitive animals would be blind to (Chiou et al. 2008;Gagnon et al. 2015). ...
... For instance, many stomatopod crustaceans possess specialised regions in their carapaces that polarise light (Fig. 2). Appendages such as the antennal scales and the first pair of maxillipeds make use of the optical properties of highly ordered molecules of astaxanthin and other photonic structures, respectively, to manipulate the degree and angle of polarisation of the light that is reflected (Cronin et al. 2009;Chiou et al. 2011Chiou et al. , 2012Jordan et al. 2016). Additionally, structures that preferentially reflect circularly or elliptically polarised light (see Table 1) have been found on the carapaces of several species of stomatopod, presumably acting as signals for stomatopod species sensitive to circularly polarised light (Chiou et al. 2008;Gagnon et al. 2015). ...
Preprint
In recent years, the study of polarization vision in animals has seen numerous breakthroughs, not just in terms of what is known about the function of this sensory ability, but also in the experimental methods by which polarization can be controlled, presented and measured. Once thought to be limited to only a few animal species, polarization sensitivity is now known to be widespread across many taxonomic groups, and advances in experimental techniques are, in part, responsible for these discoveries. Nevertheless, its study remains challenging, perhaps because of our own poor sensitivity to the polarization of light, but equally as a result of the slow spread of new practices and methodological innovations within the field. In this review, we introduce the most important steps in designing and calibrating polarized stimuli, within the broader context of areas of current research and the applications of new techniques to key questions. Our aim is to provide a constructive guide to help researchers, particularly those with no background in the physics of polarization, to design robust experiments that are free from confounding factors.
... Contrast vision is not limited to object detection. There is also evidence that polarisation-sensitive species of cephalopod mollusc and stomatopod crustacean display polarised body patterns that act as visual signals (Shashar et al. 1996;Cronin et al. 2009;Chiou et al. 2011;How et al. 2014b;Gagnon et al. 2015). In the case of circularly polarised carapace reflections in stomatopods (see Biological Polarizers), these signals would represent a private communication channel that even other polarisation-sensitive animals would be blind to (Chiou et al. 2008;Gagnon et al. 2015). ...
... For instance, many stomatopod crustaceans possess specialised regions in their carapaces that polarise light (Fig. 2). Appendages such as the antennal scales and the first pair of maxillipeds make use of the optical properties of highly ordered molecules of astaxanthin and other photonic structures, respectively, to manipulate the degree and angle of polarisation of the light that is reflected (Cronin et al. 2009;Chiou et al. 2011Chiou et al. , 2012Jordan et al. 2016). Additionally, structures that preferentially reflect circularly or elliptically polarised light (see Table 1) have been found on the carapaces of several species of stomatopod, presumably acting as signals for stomatopod species sensitive to circularly polarised light (Chiou et al. 2008;Gagnon et al. 2015). ...
Article
Full-text available
In recent years, the study of polarisation vision in animals has seen numerous breakthroughs, not just in terms of what is known about the function of this sensory ability, but also in the experimental methods by which polarisation can be controlled, presented and measured. Once thought to be limited to only a few animal species, polarisation sensitivity is now known to be widespread across many taxonomic groups, and advances in experimental techniques are, in part, responsible for these discoveries. Nevertheless, its study remains challenging, perhaps because of our own poor sensitivity to the polarisation of light, but equally as a result of the slow spread of new practices and methodological innovations within the field. In this review, we introduce the most important steps in designing and calibrating polarised stimuli, within the broader context of areas of current research and the applications of new techniques to key questions. Our aim is to provide a constructive guide to help researchers, particularly those with no background in the physics of polarisation, to design robust experiments that are free from confounding factors. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (10.1007/s00114-018-1551-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
... communication. Many species broadcast a variety of different linearly polarized visual signals (Cronin et al., 2003b;Cronin et al., 2003c;Chiou et al., 2005;Cronin et al., 2009a). ...
... Alternatively, selection for precise quarter-wave retardance in this species may be relaxed, as CPL is less significant for its current survival needs. Notably, this species does display strong linear polarization signals (Cronin et al., 2009a). ...
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A combination of behavioural and electrophysiological experiments have previously shown that two species of stomatopod, Odontadactylus scyllarus and Gonodactylaceus falcatus, can differentiate between left and right handed circularly polarized light (CPL), and between CPL and linearly polarized light (LPL). It remains unknown if these visual abilities are common across all stomatopod species, and if so, how circular polarization sensitivity may vary between and within species. A sub-section of the midband, a specialized region of stomatopod eyes, contains distally placed photoreceptor cells, termed R8 (retinular cell number 8). These cells are specifically built with unidirectional microvilli and appear to be angled precisely to convert CPL into LPL. They are mostly quarter-wave retarders for human visible light (400-700nm) as well as being ultraviolet sensitive linear polarization detectors. The effectiveness of the R8 cells in this role is determined by their geometric and optical properties. In particular, the length and birefringence of the R8 cells are critical for retardation efficiency. Here, our comparative studies show that most species investigated have the theoretical ability to convert CPL into LPL, such that the handedness of an incoming circular reflection or signal could be discriminated. One species, Haptosquilla trispinosa, shows less than quarter-wave retardance. While some species are known to produce circularly polarized reflections (some Odontodactylus species and G. falcatus for example), others do not, so a variety of functions for this ability are worth considering.
... Quantifying the polarized light environment, and in particular the background, should be employed more widely [67,68], as the contrast between an unpolarized object and a polarized background can also serve as a source of information. The quantification of polarization patterns can be achieved by using polarization photography [66 ] and portable spectrophotometers [69], and can further include photonic characterization via techniques such as electron microscopy and x-ray diffraction [70]. ...
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Invertebrates possess the unique ability to see polarized light. This allows them to exploit the rich polarization information embedded in their natural environments: patterns in plants, high contrast on water surfaces, distinctive signatures of conspecifics, and the celestial polarization pattern around the sun. From this wide repertoire of polarization signals, studies have primarily focused on understanding how celestial polarization information is converted into an internal compass. This review highlights several studies which suggest that spatio-temporal polarization information is utilized by insects for additional functions, such as signaling, detection, contrast enhancement, and host assessment. It concludes by evaluating recent technological advances for uncovering the full repertoire of polarization-sensitivity in invertebrates.
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Polarized light forward propagation in scattering environments is important basic research. Polystyrene microspheres in water are common scattering environments that can be helpful to investigate in existing literature research. In this paper, we investigated the polarization state persistence of both linearly and circularly polarized light. We used a single active source with a wavelength of 532 nm to illuminate 1 μm diameter polystyrene spheres immersed in water. To evaluate the polarization state persistence of linearly and circularly polarized light, a parameter change of polarization state was used to replace the Stokes parameters. In the setting environments of different concentrations, circularly polarized light has superior polarization state persistence to that of linearly polarized light.
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Most polarisation vision studies reveal elegant examples of how animals, mainly the invertebrates, use polarised light cues for navigation, course-control or habitat selection. Within the past two decades it has been recognised that polarised light, reflected, blocked or transmitted by some animal and plant tissues, may also provide signals that are received or sent between or within species. Much as animals use colour and colour signalling in behaviour and survival, other species additionally make use of polarisation signalling, or indeed may rely on polarisation-based signals instead. It is possible that the degree (or percentage) of polarisation provides a more reliable currency of information than the angle or orientation of the polarised light electric vector (e-vector). Alternatively, signals with specific e-vector angles may be important for some behaviours. Mixed messages, making use of polarisation and colour signals, also exist. While our knowledge of the physics of polarised reflections and sensory systems has increased, the observational and behavioural biology side of the story needs more (and more careful) attention. This Review aims to critically examine recent ideas and findings, and suggests ways forward to reveal the use of light that we cannot see.
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Fabrication of novel organic and inorganic depolarizing films derived from quasinematic cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) organization is demonstrated. These films convert linearly polarized and circularly polarized light into unpolarized light over the entire visible region. Patterning of the quasinematic CNCs on top of a chiral nematic film gives latent images that are revealed only upon observation through the circularly polarizing filters.
Chapter
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A detailed optical study of the iridescent outer-shell of the beetle Plusiotis boucardi has revealed a novel microstructure which controls both the polarization and wavelength of reflected light. A previously unreported hexagonal array across the integument of the beetle exhibits highly localized regions of reflection of only red and green left-handed circularly-polarized light. Optical and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) imaging reveals the origin of this effect as an array of 'bowl-shaped' recesses on the elytra that are formed from a dual-pitch helicoidal layer. Reflectivity spectra collected from the beetle are compared to theoretical data produced using a multi-layer optics model for modelling chiral, optically anisotropic media such as cholesteric liquid crystals. Excellent agreement is obtained between data and theory produced using a model that incorporates an upper isotropic layer (of cuticular wax), followed by a short pitch (310 (± 1) nm) overlying a longer pitch (370 (±1) nm) helicoidal layer of optically anisotropic material. These layers are backed by an absorbing underlayer. Synthetic replication of this form of structure may provide a route to the fabrication of tuneable micro-mirrors for optical applications.
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Cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish and octopus) are probably best known for their ability to change color and pattern for camouflage and communication. This is made possible by their complex skin, which contains pigmented chromatophore organs and structural light reflectors (iridophores and leucophores). Iridophores create colorful and linearly polarized reflective patterns. Equally interesting, the photoreceptors of cephalopod eyes are arranged in a way to give these animals the ability to detect the linear polarization of incoming light. The capacity to detect polarized light may have a variety of functions, such as prey detection, navigation, orientation and contrast enhancement. Because the skin of cephalopods can produce polarized reflective patterns, it has been postulated that cephalopods could communicate intraspecifically through this visual system. The term 'hidden' or 'private' communication channel has been given to this concept because many cephalopod predators may not be able to see their polarized reflective patterns. We review the evidence for polarization vision as well as polarization signaling in some cephalopod species and provide examples that tend to support the notion--currently unproven--that some cephalopods communicate using polarized light signals.
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There are eight photoreceptors in each ommatidium of the compound eye of the fly, Musca Six of them (numbered 1 to 6) are similar with respect to the size of their rhabdomeres. They are different from the two others, the receptors no. 7 and 8, which are thinner and shorter. The difference between the two types of receptors is not limited to their size. Each type is the input to one of two different subsystems of the visual system of the fly (KIRSCHFELD and FRANCESCHINI, 1968; review KIRSCHFELD, 1973).
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Some decalcified crustacean cuticle reflects left and transmits right circularly polarized light. The form optical rotatory dispersion is negative at lower and positive at higher wavelengths than that giving the interference colour for the system. The helicoidal structure deduced from the optics is supported by parabolic patterning in electron micrographs of oblique sections. The cuticle helicoid is anti-clockwise so that the right circularly polarized light transmitted through it rotates in the same sense as the helicoid from which it is produced.
Article
By Gabor Horvath and Dezso Varju Springer-Verlag (2004) pp. 447. ISBN 3-540-40457-0 £ 138.50 (hbk) ![Figure][1] Polarisation is widely regarded as difficult, obscure and, in any case, unimportant, yet nearly all of the natural light we see is partially
Article
Individual, isolated rhabdoms from dark-adapted crayfish (Orconectes, Procambarus) were studied with a laterally incident microbeam that could be placed in single stacks of microvilli. Concentration gradients of metarhodopsin along the lengths of microvilli were produced by local bleaches, accomplished by irradiation with small spots of orange light at pH 9 in the presence of glutaraldehyde or formaldehyde. No subsequent redistribution of pigment was observed in the dark, indicating an absence of translational diffusion. On the basis of comparison with other systems, glutaraldehyde, but not formaldehyde (0.75%), would be expected to prevent diffusion of protein in the membrane. Under the same conditions photodichroism is observed, indicating an absence of free Brownian rotation. Photodichroism is larger in glutaraldehyde than in formaldehyde, suggesting that the bifunctional reagent quiets some molecular motion that is present after treatment with formaldehyde. Quantitative comparison of photodichroism with mathematical models indicates that the pigment absorption vectors are aligned within +/- 50 degrees of the microvillar axes and are tilted into the surface of the membrane at an average value of about 20 degrees. The photoconversion of rhodopsin to metarhodopsin is accompanied by an increase in molar extinction of about 20% at the lambda maxand a reorientation of the absorption vector by several degrees. The transition moment either tilts further into the membrane or loses some of its axial orientation, or both. The change in orientation is 3.5 time larger in formaldehyde than in glutaraldehyde.
The iridescent cuticle of certain Ruteline scarab beetles, which is a form optically active and selectively reflects circularly polarized light, incorporates an NH4OH-extractable component The ultraviolet absorption spectrum of this component, together with its chromatographic and refractive properties, identify it as uric acid (2,6,8-trihydroxypurine). All species of Plusiotis examined have uric acid in their reflecting layers, as do several species of Anoplognathus. Plusiotis resplendens has a reflecting layer with a uric acid volume fraction of 0.7, P. optima a volume fraction of 0.6. The reflecting layer of P. resplendens has an anticlockwise helicoidal architecture, the optical thickness of the helicoidal pitch being such that it constructively interferes with visible light wavelengths. An anticlockwise helicoid constructively interferes with only the left circularly polarized component of incident light, right circularly polarized light being transmitted without attenuation. P. resplendens has a 1.8 mu m thick unidirectional layer embedded within the helicoid which functions as a perfect halfwave retardation plate for wavelength 590 nm. This halfwave plate enables the helicoidal reflector in this species to reflect both left and right circularly polarized components of incident light. After passing through the halfwave plate, transmitted right circularly polarized light becomes left circularly polarized; this light is now reflected and emerges from the cuticle right circularly polarized, after passing back through the halfwave plate. Consequently the total reflectivity of circularly polarized incident light is greater in P. resplendens than in any other species examined; the plate also reduces multiple internal reflexions. Interferometric analysis of the refractive properties of the helicoidal reflectors in species of Plusiotis showed that the ordered incorporation of uric acid increases the birefringence of the system by a factor of five times, e.g. the intact birefringence of the unidirectional layer of P. resplendens is 0.166 at wavelength 560 nm; after uric acid extraction the birefringence is reduced to 0.034. As the coefficient of reflexion of a helicoidal reflector is directly proportional to the birefringence of the individual planes comprising the helicoid, beetles incorporating uric acid into their reflecting surfaces reflect circularly polarized light far more efficiently than beetles lacking uric acid. Refractive index values for a single multicomponent plane of the helicoid have been summarized as a biaxial indicatrix, with the Z axis tilted at 45 degrees to the plane of the epicuticle. Beetle reflecting layers which incorporate uric acid have twenty times greater optical rotatory power compared with reflecting layers lacking this component. Mathematical treatments dealing with helicoidal reflectors predict the form optical rotatory power to be a function of the square of the birefringence, which is in agreement with the experimental observations. To enable uric acid to have the optical effects mentioned above, an epitaxial incorporation into the helicoidal framework is necessary. Although uric acid is a common cytoplasmic reflecting material in arthropods, this is the first record of its presence in an extracellular (cuticular) reflector.