Do cephalopods communicate using polarized light reflections from their skin? Academic Article uri icon

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.

publication date

  • July 2009