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Do scarab beetles get to join an exclusive visual sensory club?

Animal visual systems are evolutionarily tuned to exploit environmental light towards the purposes of spatial perception, navigation, and intraspecific communication. We predominately experience visual information based on variations in the intensity and the wavelengths of incoming light; perceived as brightness and colors. Other animals however, especially the arthropods, also rely on an additional visual modality with which to perceive their world. They are capable of detecting and discriminating different polarizations of light waves.

I’ve previously discussed how most arthropods detect linearly polarized light (LPL), and last week I summarized the research making mantis shrimp the first animal known to be capable of detecting and discriminating an additional flavor of polarized light, circularly polarized light (CPL). Now, new research has brought a challenger, a jewel scarab beetle (Chrysina gloriosa), into contention for the exclusive CPL sensitivity club. Lets find out how strong the beetle’s case is, and weather the mantis shrimp is going to have to share (begrudgingly, I’m sure) the spotlight.

Read the rest of this post at Arthropoda’s new home, on the Southern Fried Science Network.


Arthropod Roundup: Trilobites (both fossilized and stuffed), velvet worms, animated stomatopods, and deviant water striders

See this week’s roundup at Arthropoda’s new home on the Southern Fried Science Network.

A not-so-well camouflaged ambush bug

See the photo at Arthropoda’s new home on the Southern Fried Science Network.

How mantis shrimp see circularly polarized light

Mantis shrimp have long been regarded as visual super-stars. They can have up to 16 distinct photoreceptor types that are maximally sensitive to at least 12 different wavelengths (colors) of light; from deep in the ultraviolet, across our visual range, and into the infrared. In addition, they are strongly sensitive to linearly polarized light (LPL) and are able to discriminate the angle at which these waves of light are oscillating as they travel through space. This visual modality, though hugely foreign to us, is actually well perceived by cephalopods, some chordates, and almost universally amongst the arthropods. Mantis shrimp however, seemingly never content to be matched, have taken polarization sensitivity a step beyond any other animal. They have evolved an ingenious means of detecting and discriminating circularly polarized light (CPL)…

Read more at Arthropoda’s new home, on the Southern Fried Science Network.

Trash-covered decorator crab

Trash-covered decorator crab, originally uploaded by Michael Bok.

This crab was found living in the outflow sump system for the research station salt water aquaria system. He has covered himself with plastic, netting and other trash that ends up in the collection basin before the water is sent back out to the sea. The yellow areas on the crab are sponges that the crab actually farms on its body. They provide the dual benefit of camouflage and a portable snack.

Approaching Lizard Island from the air

I snapped this shot as our aircraft began circling in for a landing on the airstrip in the middle of Lizard Island (the island in the background). Palfrey Island is in the foreground, with the protected lagoon in the middle. The research station is barely visible along the leftmost beach on Lizard Island.

Carnival of the Blue #36 is up

The 36th edition of Carnival of the Blue is up at Observations of a Nerd. Go check it out for more salty science than you can shake a bamboo shark at! Next month’s Carnival of the Blue will be at Blogfish. Submit articles via this automatic submission form.

I have moved.
Arthropoda can now be found here.

Michael Bok is a graduate student studying the visual system of mantis shrimp.

Flickr Photos