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Publication - Professor Nicholas Roberts

    Polarisation signals

    A new currency for communication


    Marshall, NJ, Powell, SB, Cronin, TW, Caldwell, RL, Johnsen, S, Gruev, V, Chiou, TH, Roberts, NW & How, MJ, 2019, ‘Polarisation signals: A new currency for communication’. Journal of Experimental Biology, vol 222.


    Most polarisation vision studies reveal elegant examples of how
    animals, mainly the invertebrates, use polarised light cues for
    navigation, course-control or habitat selection. Within the past two decades it has been recognised that polarised light, reflected,
    blocked or transmitted by some animal and plant tissues, may also provide signals that are received or sent between or within species. Much as animals use colour and colour signalling in behaviour and survival, other species additionally make use of polarisation signalling, or indeed may rely on polarisation-based signals instead. It is possible that the degree (or percentage) of polarisation provides a more reliable currency of information than the angle or orientation of the polarised light electric vector (e-vector). Alternatively, signals with specific e-vector angles may be important for some behaviours.
    Mixed messages, making use of polarisation and colour signals, also exist. While our knowledge of the physics of polarised reflections and sensory systems has increased, the observational and behavioural biology side of the story needs more (and more careful) attention. This Review aims to critically examine recent ideas and findings, and suggests ways forward to reveal the use of light that we cannot see.

    Full details in the University publications repository