Mantis shrimp are one of the coolest animals to ever exist. They have a pair of front limbs that can punch through aquarium glass, and they have some of the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. Now there's evidence that they might be better at secure communication than humans.
That's because these creatures have their own secret language based on polarized light signals, according to previous research. Polarized light is created by passing light waves through some kind of filter to make the waves line up in a certain direction or pattern (think polarized sunglasses or camera lenses). Polarized light isn't really visible to humans. Polarized sunglasses and lenses just change the amount of light intensity that gets through to us. But some animals like the mantis shrimp have specialized eyes that can detect the different light waves.
Now scientists from the University of Bristol think they're closer to understanding how this light communication works. Mantis shrimp have a handful of tiny structures on their shells and limbs that can reflect regular light back out as polarized light. Nearby mantis shrimp can see the reflected polarized signal and answer back. This secure communication is useful when predators are around.
According to the research published Feb. 17 in the journal Scientific Reports, the scientists think it's possible to harness the mantis shrimp technique to develop new types of light polarizers that are commonly used in things like sunglasses, cameras and DVD players.
"When it comes to developing a new way to make polarizers, nature has come up with optical solutions we haven't yet thought of," biologist Nicholas Roberts said in a press release.
Most polarizers we have now rely on passing light through a filter like a lens, not simply passing light across a reflector like the mantis shrimp. So studying the animal's biology more closely could lead to improved and simpler polarization technology.