Photo (c) Amanda Franklin
Mantis shrimp, sometimes known as insects of the ocean, are found in tropical areas all around the globe as well as some subtropical areas. Their dazzling colours make them a beautiful creature to observe on a reef, however there is more to these colours than meets the human eye.
The stomatopod visual system is the most complex visual system known in the animal kingdom. They have up to 16 visual pigments (we have 3) and have the ability to see ultraviolet, infrared, linearly polarised and circularly polarised light. Without getting too complex, polarised light is when light waves vibrate in the same direction, rather than many different directions. Stomatopods are the only known animals which can see circularly polarised light. Furthermore, some have coloured patches on their bodies that can reflect linearly or circularly polarised light.
So why such a complex visual system? And why do they have polarised patches on their body? It may be a ‘private channel’ communication system. Predators can’t tune in, and other stomatopods gain useful information undetected! What an ideal way to communicate!