Apr 28, 2008

Mantis Eyes

I've posted on the mantis shrimp before (can you go wrong with a name like mantis shrimp?), and I'll post on them again. But the Bleimans have alerted me to an article in Wired that reveals whole new depths to this colorful (you'll catch the pun in a moment) creature.

Photo source: Wired
















It turns out that the mantis shrimp has spectacular eyes. For one thing, those compound eyes are composed of thousands of rows of light-detecting units called ommatidia. These ommatidia allow the mantis shrimp to see in 100,000 different colors -- that's 10 times what we humans are able to see. Wow. Crayola and the cosmetics trade would have to hire full time personnel just to create names for all their new crayons and lipsticks.

But there's more. These shrimp are the first animals ever discovered to be able to perceive circular polarized light (CPL).

Barbecue shrimp. Shrimp salad. Shrimp gumbo. CPL-seeing shrimp.

CPL is used in a variety of industries, so no doubt studying this ability in these shrimp will prove to be very valuable.

7 comments:

Jason said...

There is no creepier, more alien creature on earth than the mantis shrimp. When they look at you, you can tell they're working things out.

Keith said...

Not strictly true - the bit about the number of colours. Human colour vision can distinguish quite a few more shades than 10,000!

Raging Wombat said...

I myself can see roughly 10,124 shades.

Hellphyre said...

And even better, they can shatter aquarium glass with their fore-limbs, at least according to my invert. zoology prof.

joysweeper said...

Mantis shrimp are fascinating. They featured once or twice in "The Most Extreme" on Animal Planet. Apparently, each eye has its own visual cortex, because the shrimp's brain isn't big enough on its own to handle what it sees.

meg said...

wowww I remember doing CPL tests on gasses in chemistry lab, I cant imagine what it would be like to see that as colors!

Kit said...

I've heard of people who have these in tanks. If they reach in to clean the tank an aren't careful, these cranky crustasians can split thumbs and slice hands open lightning fast. Me... I think I'll stick to goldfish.