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Marine animals use previously unknown communication method: Polarised light

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defensive mantis shrimp – areas of reflected circular polarizing light show red/Yakir Gagnon, QBI

Mantis shrimps use it to avoid already occupied hiding places.

From ScienceDaily:

Researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute at The University of Queensland have uncovered a new form of secret light communication used by marine animals.

Dr Yakir Gagnon, Professor Justin Marshall and colleagues previously showed that mantis shrimp (Gonodactylaceus falcatus) can reflect and detect circular polarising light, an ability extremely rare in nature. Until now, no-one has known what they use it for.

The new study shows the shrimp use circular polarisation as a means to covertly advertise their presence to aggressive competitors.

“In birds, colour is what we’re familiar with; in the ocean, reef fish display with colour. This is a form of communication we understand. What we’re now discovering is there’s a completely new language of communication,” said Professor Marshall.

Linear polarised light is seen only in one plane, whereas circular polarised light travels in a spiral — clockwise or anti-clockwise — direction.

The team determined that mantis shrimp display circular polarised patterns on the body, particularly on the legs, head and heavily armoured tail; these are the regions most visible when when they curl up during conflict.

Another study involving Professor Marshall, published in the same edition of Current Biology, showed that linear polarised light is used as a form of communication by fiddler crabs.

“It appears that fiddler crabs have evolved inbuilt sunglasses, in the same way as we use polarising sunglasses to reduce glare,” Professor Marshall said. Bl21The crabs were able to detect and identify ground-base objects base on how much polarised light was reflected. They either moved forward in a mating stance, or retreated back into their holes, at varying speeds.

“These animals are dealing in a currency of polarisation that is completely invisible to humans,” Professor Marshall said. “It’s all part of this new story on the language of polarisation.” More.

Which all just sort of happened, right? Pieces all just landed in place via Darwin’s Lotto.

See also: Life as “self-perpetuating information strings”? At least Adami is on the right track in focusing on understanding information, not chemistry, as the key driver.


What we know about how animals think (or whatever it is that they do)

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Here’s the abstract:

Animals that communicate using conspicuous body patterns face a trade-off between desired detection by intended receivers and undesired detection from eavesdropping predators, prey, rivals, or parasites [ 1–10 ]. In some cases, this trade-off favors the evolution of signals that are both hidden from predators and visible to conspecifics. Animals may produce covert signals using a property of light that is invisible to those that they wish to evade, allowing them to hide in plain sight (e.g., dragonfish can see their own, otherwise rare, red bioluminescence [ 11–13 ]). The use of the polarization of light is a good example of a potentially covert communication channel, as very few vertebrates are known to use polarization for object-based vision [ 14, 15 ]. However, even these patterns are vulnerable to eavesdroppers, as sensitivity to the linearly polarized component of light is widespread among invertebrates due to their intrinsically polarization sensitive photoreceptors [ 14, 16 ]. Stomatopod crustaceans appear to have gone one step further in this arms race and have evolved a sensitivity to the circular polarization of light, along with body patterns producing it [ 17 ]. However, to date we have no direct evidence that any of these marine crustaceans use this modality to communicate with conspecifics. We therefore investigated circular polarization vision of the mantis shrimp Gonodactylaceus falcatus [ 18 ] and demonstrate that (1) the species produces strongly circularly polarized body patterns, (2) they discriminate the circular polarization of light, and (3) that they use circular polarization information to avoid occupied burrows when seeking a refuge. (paywall) Yakir Luc Gagnon, Rachel Marie Templin, Martin John How, N. Justin Marshall. Circularly Polarized Light as a Communication Signal in Mantis Shrimps. Current Biology, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.10.047

With 'biological sunscreen,' mantis shrimp see the reef in a whole different light - July 3, 2014 Excerpt: In an unexpected discovery, researchers have found that the complex eyes of mantis shrimp are equipped with optics that generate ultraviolet (UV) color vision. Mantis shrimp's six UV photoreceptors pick up on different colors within the UV spectrum based on filters made from an ingredient other animals depend on as built-in biological sunscreen, according to research reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on July 3. "The mantis shrimp visual system contains six types of photoreceptors functioning completely outside the visual range of humans," says Michael Bok of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. "Surprisingly, they produce their six UV photoreceptors using only two types of visual pigments by pairing one visual pigment with one of four UV filters. The UV filters block certain wavelengths of light from reaching the photoreceptors, chromatically shifting their sensitivity." The filters are composed of so-called mycosporine-like amino acids (or MAAs), which are commonly found in the skin or exoskeleton of marine organisms, where they absorb damaging UV rays. They do the same thing in mantis shrimp eyes, but for an entirely novel purpose. ,,, Despite the new discovery, the researchers say, it's still tough to imagine the reef as mantis shrimp see it. "The way their eyes are built and how visual information is processed in their brains is so fundamentally different [from] humans that is very difficult to conceptualize what the world actually looks like to them," Bok says. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-07/cp-ws062614.php
as to this quote from the abstract:
Stomatopod crustaceans appear to have gone one step further in this arms race and have evolved a sensitivity to the circular polarization of light, along with body patterns producing it [ 17 ].
Behe states that Darwinian evolution is not like an arms race at all but is more properly thought of as trench warfare that is fought by attrition
“Real arms races are run by highly intelligent, bespectacled engineers in glass offices thoughtfully designing shiny weapons on modern computers. But there's no thinking in the mud and cold of nature's trenches. At best, weapons thrown together amidst the explosions and confusion of smoky battlefields are tiny variations on old ones, held together by chewing gum. If they don't work, then something else is thrown at the enemy, including the kitchen sink - there's nothing "progressive" about that. At its usual worst, trench warfare is fought by attrition. If the enemy can be stopped or slowed by burning your own bridges and bombing your own radio towers and oil refineries, then away they go. Darwinian trench warfare does not lead to progress - it leads back to the Stone Age.” - Michael J. Behe, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism
A few notes:
“The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain - Michael Behe - December 2010 Excerpt: In its most recent issue The Quarterly Review of Biology has published a review by myself of laboratory evolution experiments of microbes going back four decades.,,, The gist of the paper is that so far the overwhelming number of adaptive (that is, helpful) mutations seen in laboratory evolution experiments are either loss or modification of function. Of course we had already known that the great majority of mutations that have a visible effect on an organism are deleterious. Now, surprisingly, it seems that even the great majority of helpful mutations degrade the genome to a greater or lesser extent.,,, I dub it “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain. http://behe.uncommondescent.com/2010/12/the-first-rule-of-adaptive-evolution/ Biological Information - Loss-of-Function Mutations (Michael Behe) by Paul Giem 2015 - video (Behe - Loss of function mutations are far more likely to fix in a population than gain of function mutations) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzD3hhvepK8&index=20&list=PLHDSWJBW3DNUUhiC9VwPnhl-ymuObyTWJ Mantis Shrimp Eyes Could Show Way To Better DVD And CD players "Our work reveals for the first time the unique design and mechanism of the quarter-wave plate in the mantis shrimp's eye. It really is exceptional -- out-performing anything we humans have so far been able to create." per science daily Mantis Shrimp - Fastest Punch in the World - video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtNAqK_V-lg Creature's 'dactyl club' filters shear waves to resist damage - June 17, 2015 Excerpt: The "smasher" peacock mantis shrimp is able to repeatedly pummel the shells of prey using a bizarre hammer-like appendage that, new research shows, can withstand rapid-fire blows by neutralizing certain frequencies of "shear waves." The "dactyl club" can reach an acceleration of 10,000 Gs, unleashing a barrage of ferocious impacts with the speed of a .22 caliber bullet. "The smasher mantis shrimp will hit many times per day. It is amazing,",, The club is made of a composite material containing fibers of chitin, the same substance found in many marine crustacean shells and insect exoskeletons but arranged in a helicoidal structure that resembles a spiral staircase. This spiral architecture, new research findings show, is,, designed to survive the repeated high-velocity blows by filtering out certain frequencies of waves, called shear waves, that are particularly damaging.,,, The researchers modeled the structure with the same mathematical equations used to study materials in solid-state physics and photonics, showing the structure possesses "bandgaps" that filter out the damaging effects of shear waves traveling at the speed of sound. Composites with this design structure could be used for a variety of applications, including aerospace and automotive frames, body armor and athletic gear including football helmets. http://phys.org/news/2015-06-creature-dactyl-club-filters-resist.html Paramecium caudatum can communicate with neighbors using a non-molecular method, probably photons. The cell populations were separated either with glass allowing photon transmission from 340 nm to longer waves, or quartz being transmittable from 150 nm, i.e. from UV light to longer waves. Energy uptake, cell division rate and growth correlation were influenced. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paramecium_caudatum Biophoton Communication: Can Cells Talk Using Light? - May 2012 Excerpt: The question he aims to answer is whether the stream of photons has any discernible structure that would qualify it as a form of communication.,, Biophoton streams consist of short quasiperiodic bursts, which he says are remarkably similar to those used to send binary data over a noisy channel. http://www.technologyreview.com/view/427982/biophoton-communication-can-cells-talk-using/ Learning from Bacteria about Social Networking (Information Processing) - video Excerpt: I will show illuminating movies of swarming intelligence of live bacteria in which they solve optimization problems for collective decision making that are beyond what we, human beings, can solve with our most powerful computers. I will discuss the special nature of bacteria computational principles in comparison to our Turing Algorithm computational principles, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJpi8SnFXHs Recent Hammerhead Shark Research Shows Several, Independent Lines of Evidence Against Evolution Excerpt: It’s aerodynamic head, or cephalofoil, is a unique design, not only providing lift while swimming, but a platform for a distributed sensor suite, complete with widely spaced eyes and an array of electromagnetic sensors providing triangulation with superior binocular vision and electromagnetic tracking of prey, detecting extremely weak electrical signals arising from molecules in their prey. http://darwins-god.blogspot.com/2012/03/recent-hammerhead-shark-research-shows.html
Verse and Music:
Psalm 148:7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you creatures of the ocean depths, Beneath the Waves, A Relaxing Coral Reef Journey Set to Peaceful Music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxAfmS0iUIM
OK, so we again have a situation where a known living animal has: 1) a vision system that allows them to see a VERY rare kind of light, 2) body parts that generate this VERY rare kind of light. So, neither of the systems has ANY use if the other system is not yet functional. This STRONGLY suggests that the 2 INDEPENDENT systems arose together, and that BOTH of them were at least marginally functional on Day 1. Sounds like Irreducible Complexity to me. By any chance has anyone checked to see whether the critters involved can ALSO see other kinds of polarized light? Or whether their bodies ALSO bear markings visible in other kinds of polarized light? mahuna

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