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Long-wavelength reflecting filters found in the larval retinas of one mantis shrimp family (Nannosquillidae)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Biology
DateAccepted/In press - 12 Jul 2019


Animals are known to exploit either transmissive coloured filters or reflectors for adaptive visual benefits. Here we describe a new category of biological optical filter that acts simultaneously as both a transmissive spectral filter and narrowband reflector. Discovered in the larval eyes of only one family of stomatopod crustaceans (Nannosquillidae), each crystalline structure bisects the photoreceptive rhabdom into two tiers and contains an ordered array of membrane-bound vesicles with sub-wavelength diameters of 153 ± 5 nm. Axial illumination of these intrarhabdomal structures in vivo produces a narrow-band of yellow reflectance (mean peak reflectivity at 572 ± 18 nm). While analogous visual structures are not known in nature, the optical performance of these intrarhabdomal structural reflectors is similar to synthetic devices used in the optical industry, such as band gap filters, laser mirrors, or fiber Bragg gratings. The interaction of these structural filters with wavelengths of light between 475 nm and 520 nm and the animal’s visual ecology together suggest that these structures may help improve the detection of pelagic bioluminescence in shallow water at night.



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