Dr Martin J How

BA (Oxon), MSc, PhD

  • BS8 1TQ


Research output per year

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Personal profile

Research interests

Animal vision is often very different from our own. As humans, we can become complacent about the level of visual information around us, assuming that what we see is all that there is. However, the more that we understand about animal vision, the more that we must recognise the different ways that animals view their world. Stepping out of our own sensory realm to try to understand how different species sense their own environments represents an exciting challenge to science and is a field that I find deeply fascinating.

I have spent my career trying to see the world from the perspective of invertebrates. For my PhD I studied the visually guided behaviour of fiddler crabs at the Australian National University by filming and processing natural scenes of signalling fiddler crabs from a crab’s perspective. I then studied the
communication signals of the giant cuttlefish, which uses chromatophore organs to produce moving body patterns. I subsequently moved to the University of Queensland (UQ) to investigate the remarkable visual system of mantis shrimps. These crustaceans possess one of the most complex eyes in the natural world,
with 12 different colour receptors and at least 6 different polarization channels. Here, I contributed to the ground-breaking discovery that these animals use a serial colour vision system unlike any known in nature (Science 343:411-413). In recent years I have become fascinated by why some animals have opted to use
the polarization of light instead of colour. My recent work has shown that some species of crustacean use a sensitive polarization vision system instead of colour. This is a new and exciting field of visual ecology offering multiple avenues of research at the anatomical, physiological, behavioural and ecological scales.
Furthermore, we are now beginning to identify a number of biologically inspired technological applications for these findings in the fields of neuroscience, medicine, material science, sensor design, and image processing.

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Research Output

  • 34 Article (Academic Journal)
  • 2 Comment/debate (Academic Journal)
  • 1 Conference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)
  • 1 Review article (Academic Journal)

Target detection is enhanced by polarization vision in a fiddler crab

How, M. J., Christy, J. H., Temple, S. E., Hemmi, J. M., Justin Marshall, N. & Roberts, N. W., 7 Dec 2015, In : Current Biology. 25, 23, p. 3069-3073 5 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

Open Access
  • 20 Citations (Scopus)
    296 Downloads (Pure)

    A different form of color vision in mantis shrimp

    Thoen, H. H., How, M. J., Chiou, T-H. & Marshall, J., 24 Jan 2014, In : Science. 343, 6169, p. 411-413 3 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

  • 90 Citations (Scopus)

    Polarization distance: a framework for modelling object detection by polarization vision systems

    How, M. J. & Marshall, N. J., 7 Feb 2014, In : Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 281, 1776, p. 20131632

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

  • 21 Citations (Scopus)


    Konishi Neuroethology Research Award

    How, Martin J (Recipient), 1 Aug 2014

    Prize: Prizes, Medals, Awards and Grants

  • Activities

    • 1 Participation in conference
    • 1 Invited talk

    STEM Cafe presentation: the bizarre visual world of the mantis shrimp

    Martin J How (Speaker)

    1 Oct 2014

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesInvited talk

    11th International Congress of Neuroethology

    Martin J How (Participant)

    28 Jul 20141 Aug 2014

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference