New type of optical material discovered in the secret language of the mantis shrimp

The Ecology of Vision Lab at the University of Bristol came out with a new paper today.  The general gist of the new and exciting discoveries that have come, yet again, from studying mantis shrimp is summarised in the following press release I wrote:

Ht cropped

In the image above (credit Roy Caldwell), I will draw your attention to the stars of the paper – the brilliantly blue coloured paddles underneath the eyes. What you can’t see from the photograph, or really without a pair of the correct sun glasses, is that these blue modified mouth parts are in fact strongly polarized. Mantis shrimp like to waggle these paddles at one another, typically in the interest of having sex, so any animals who can’t see polarized light (like us humans) are left out of the conversation. While the behaviour is cool, looking at the way they make this blue, polarized signal is even cooler. It turns out the photonic mechanism responsible for this signal is unlike anything ever though up or utilised by humans! Nature, once again, has revealed that the best solution may not be the human solution.

Here is the paper if you really want to delve into the physics as well as see some sweet illustrations (by yours truly):

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