Thursday, 1 September 2016

In the ocean, clever camouflage beats super sight

Even animals with super sight fail to spot this underwater disappearing trick

Date: August 22, 2016
Source: Duke University

In a matchup of animal superpowers, a clever form of camouflage might beat super sight -- at least in the ocean.

There's nowhere to hide in the open ocean, far from the shore or the seafloor. But some fish have a clever disappearing trick. The silvery skin of fish like herring, sardines, mackerel and tuna act like mirrors, reflecting their watery surroundings to better blend in. The effect serves as a kind of underwater invisibility cloak that helps them hide in plain sight.

Researchers have long assumed that some animals could see through this silvery disguise, thanks to a superpower of their own: the ability to detect a property of light -- called polarization -- that humans can't see.

Octopuses and squid, shrimp and other crustaceans, and some fish such as trout and salmon all have the gift, called polarization vision.

"It's kind of like wearing polarized sunglasses," said Sonke Johnsen, biology professor at Duke University and the first author on a new study of how well animals see reflective camouflage in the ocean.




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