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Mantis shrimp communication yields reflective polarizer

"Nature has come up with optical solutions we haven't yet thought of," researcher Nicholas Roberts said.
By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 17, 2016 at 10:22 AM

BRISTOL, England, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- In decoding the secret language of mantis shrimps, scientists have discovered a new polarizing material. Polarizers are optical filters used in the lenses of cameras, sunglasses and other devices.

Mantis shrimp don't have vocal cords. They use light to talk to each other. Bright reflectors allow them to beam out polarized light signals. The communication technique is difficult for predators to detect, meaning mantis shrimp can chat without giving away their location.

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In taking a closer look at the mantis shrimp's unique language, researchers at Bristol University realized the crustacean employs a polarizing structure unlike any they'd seen before.

The mantis shrimp's bright reflectors are able to alter the whole structure of a light beam, whereas other biological and man-made polarizers manipulate light through the beam's depth.

As researchers explain in their paper on the subject -- published in the journal Scientific Reports -- the mantis shrimp's unique reflectors allow the "production of a highly polarized reflection."

"When it comes to developing a new way to make polarizers, nature has come up with optical solutions we haven't yet thought of," Nicholas Roberts, a biological scientist at Bristol, said in a news release. "Industries working on optical technologies will be interested in this new solution mantis shrimp have found to create a polarizer as new ways for humans to use and control light are developed."

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