Thresholds of polarization vision in octopuses

Shelby E Temple, Martin J How, Samuel B. Powell, Viktor Gruev, N. Justin Marshall, Nicholas W Roberts

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

8 Citations (Scopus)


Polarization vision is widespread in nature, mainly among invertebrates, and is used for a range of tasks including navigation, habitat localisation, and communication. In marine environments, some species such as those from the crustacea and cephalopoda that are principally monochromatic, have evolved to use this adaptation to discriminate objects across the whole visual field, an ability similar to our own use of colour vision. The performance of these polarization vision systems varies, and the few cephalopod species tested so far have notably acute thresholds of discrimination. However, most studies to date have used artificial sources of polarized light that produce levels of polarization much higher than found in nature. In this study, the ability of octopus to detect polarization contrasts varying in angle of polarization (AoP) was investigated over a range of different degrees of linear polarization (DoLP) to better judge their visual ability in more ecologically relevant conditions. The ‘just-noticeable-differences’ (JND) of AoP contrasts varied consistently with DoLP. These JND thresholds could be largely explained by their polarization distance, a neurophysical model that effectively calculates the level of activity in opposing horizontally and vertically oriented polarization channels in the cephalopod visual system. Imaging polarimetry from the animals’ natural environment was then used to illustrate the functional advantage that these polarization thresholds may confer in behaviourally relevant
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb240812
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number7
Early online date10 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


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