Biological polarized light reflectors in stomatopod crustaceans

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Citation of Original Publication

Tsyr-Huei Chiou, Thomas W. Cronin, Roy L. Caldwell, and Justin Marshall "Biological polarized light reflectors in stomatopod crustaceans", Proc. SPIE 5888, Polarization Science and Remote Sensing II, 58881B (10 September 2005); doi: 10.1117/12.613117;


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Body parts that can reflect highly polarized light have been found in several species of stomatopod crustaceans (mantis shrimps). These polarized light reflectors can be grossly divided into two major types. The first type, usually red or pink in color to the human visual system, is located within an animal’s cuticle. Reflectors of the second type, showing iridescent blue, are located beneath the exoskeleton and thus are unaffected by the molt cycle. We used reflection spectropolarimetry and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to study the reflective properties and the structures that reflect highly polarized light in stomatopods. For the first type of reflector, the degree of polarization usually changes dramatically, from less than 20% to over 70%, with a change in viewing angle. TEM examination indicates that the polarization reflection is generated by multilayer thin-film interference. The second type of reflector, the blue colored ones, reflects highly polarized light to all viewing angles. However, these reflectors show a slight chromatic change with different viewing angles. TEM sections have revealed that streams of oval-shaped vesicles might be responsible for the production of the polarized light reflection. In all the reflectors we have examined so far, the reflected light is always maximally polarized at around 500 nm, which is close to the wavelength best transmitted by sea water. This suggests that the polarized light reflectors found in stomatopods are well adapted to the underwater environment. We also found that most reflectors produce polarized light with a horizontal e-vector. How these polarized light reflectors are used in stomatopod signaling remains unknown.