Commentary Do cephalopods communicate using polarized light reflections from their skin?

Lydia M. Mäthger, Nadav Shashar, Roger T. Hanlon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations

Abstract

Cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish and octopus) are probably best known for their ability to change color and pattern for camouflage and communication. This is made possible by their complex skin, which contains pigmented chromatophore organs and structural light reflectors (iridophores and leucophores). Iridophores create colorful and linearly polarized reflective patterns. Equally interesting, the photoreceptors of cephalopod eyes are arranged in a way to give these animals the ability to detect the linear polarization of incoming light. The capacity to detect polarized light may have a variety of functions, such as prey detection, navigation, orientation and contrast enhancement. Because the skin of cephalopods can produce polarized reflective patterns, it has been postulated that cephalopods could communicate intraspecifically through this visual system. The term 'hidden' or 'private' communication channel has been given to this concept because many cephalopod predators may not be able to see their polarized reflective patterns. We review the evidence for polarization vision as well as polarization signaling in some cephalopod species and provide examples that tend to support the notion - currently unproven - that some cephalopods communicate using polarized light signals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2133-2140
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume212
Issue number14
DOIs
StatePublished - 15 Jul 2009

Keywords

  • Camouflage
  • Chromatophore
  • Iridophore
  • Polarization vision
  • Signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science

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