Behind the Top Secret Light-Based Communications of the Mantis Shrimp

A photograph of A female Odontodactylus Scyllarus mantis shrimp. Image by : L. Caldwell/PD
In terms of communications privacy, mantis shrimp are way ahead of humans. Their security measures are built in, biologically, thanks to a peculiar communication strategy based on sending information from shrimp to shrimp through the polarization of light. Eavesdropping predators can’t see this information-carrying component, so the mantis shrimp is able to signal to its fellow mantis shrimp invisibly. Evolution is pretty clever.

By Michael Byrne|MOTHERBOARD

Researchers from the Ecology of Vision Group at the University of Bristol have been working to understand this system using a combination of light measurements, theoretical modeling, and anatomical observations. In a paper published in this week’s Scientific Reports, the group describes a never-before-seen optical material employed by the mantis shrimp that allows it to reflect bright and colorful polarized light using microscopically thin features. As one might imagine, this could potentially be useful for future human communications technologies as it represents an entirely new way of building polarizers.

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