Mantis Shrimp Roll Their Eyes, But For A Good Reason

This is just how mantis shrimp roll. What big eyes to roll with too. Image: Michael Bok, University of Lund

They're dangerous, are among the most badarse and intriguing undersea creatures and, according to a new study, have another unique trick that only adds to their reputation: Rolling their eyes to see clearer.

Researchers at the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences found that mantis shrimp use those eye rotations to enhance their polarisation vision. They therefore can see the world around them with their already enhanced vision.

You see, mantis shrimp see differently than humans. While we have three different colour channels (red, green and blue) that we see through, mantis shrimp have 12. They can also see the polarisation of light. By rolling their eyes, they're not trying to sass you, but rather improve the polarisation contrast of objects in their marine environment.

"Intuitively, a stable eye should see the world better than a mobile one, but mantis shrimp seem to have found a different way to see more clearly," co-author Dr Nicholas Roberts said in a press release.

For the unaware, polarised light is everywhere, but humans can't see it. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association uses sunglasses as an example of a polarisation filter in the case of water glare. This filter allows us to see clearer in certain conditions. The same goes for certain creatures, including many marine life, that use it for navigation, communication and finding food.

According to the research, published Monday in Nature Communications, while there are a few species that use rotation to aid in polarisation vision (such as desert ants, which rotate their whole bodies when navigating), mantis shrimp are the first creature to be observed using just their eyes for this task.

Scientists hope that these findings can help with building technology that mimics the eye and can be used for image processing and underwater exploration. This is just the latest application the mantis shrimp is being used for. Earlier this year, scientists announced that they were inspired by the mantis shrimp's claws to build stronger armour.

[Popular Science via EurekAlert]

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