Polarisation vision: overcoming challenges of working with a property of light we barely see

James J. Foster*, Shelby E. Temple, Martin J. How, Ilse M. Daly, Camilla R. Sharkey, David Wilby, Nicholas W. Roberts

*Corresponding author for this work

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

55 Citations (Scopus)
441 Downloads (Pure)


In recent years, the study of polarisation vision in animals has seen numerous breakthroughs, not just in terms of what is known about the function of this sensory ability, but also in the experimental methods by which polarisation can be controlled, presented and measured. Once thought to be limited to only a few animal species, polarisation sensitivity is now known to be widespread across many taxonomic groups, and advances in experimental techniques are, in part, responsible for these discoveries. Nevertheless, its study remains challenging, perhaps because of our own poor sensitivity to the polarisation of light, but equally as a result of the slow spread of new practices and methodological innovations within the field. In this review, we introduce the most important steps in designing and calibrating polarised stimuli, within the broader context of areas of current research and the applications of new techniques to key questions. Our aim is to provide a constructive guide to help researchers, particularly those with no background in the physics of polarisation, to design robust experiments that are free from confounding factors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
Number of pages26
Issue number3-4
Early online date27 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Artefact
  • Imaging
  • Measurement
  • Methods
  • Polarisation
  • Vision


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