Circularly polarized light detection in stomatopod crustaceans: a comparison of photoreceptors and possible function in six species

Rachel Marie Templin, Martin How, Nicholas Roberts, Tsyr-Huei Chiou, Justin Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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A combination of behavioural and electrophysiological experiments have previously shown that two species of stomatopod, Odontadactylus scyllarus and Gonodactylaceus falcatus, can differentiate between left and right handed circularly polarized light (CPL), and between CPL and linearly polarized light (LPL). It remains unknown if these visual abilities are common across all stomatopod species, and if so, how circular polarization sensitivity may vary between and within species. A sub-section of the midband, a specialized region of stomatopod eyes, contains distally placed photoreceptor cells, termed R8 (retinular cell number 8). These cells are specifically built with unidirectional microvilli and appear to be angled precisely to convert CPL into LPL. They are mostly quarter-wave retarders for human visible light (400-700nm) as well as being ultraviolet sensitive linear polarization detectors. The effectiveness of the R8 cells in this role is determined by their geometric and optical properties. In particular, the length and birefringence of the R8 cells are critical for retardation efficiency. Here, our comparative studies show that most species investigated have the theoretical ability to convert CPL into LPL, such that the handedness of an incoming circular reflection or signal could be discriminated. One species, Haptosquilla trispinosa, shows less than quarter-wave retardance. While some species are known to produce circularly polarized reflections (some Odontodactylus species and G. falcatus for example), others do not, so a variety of functions for this ability are worth considering.
Original languageEnglish
Article number220
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number18
Early online date30 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2017


  • Polarization vision
  • stomatopods
  • circular polarization
  • invertebrate vision


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