Capturing an octopus-eye view of the Great Barrier Reef

Jan 27, 2012

A specialized camera that allows scientists to see as reef-dwelling animals do has been built by a team of researchers at the University of Bristol. The team will travel to Lizard Island off the coast of Queensland this year to capture images of the Great Barrier Reef which they hope will provide new insight into this underwater world.

The camera enables the researchers to see an aspect of light that humans are essentially blind to: polarized light. Though humans aren't sensitive to polarized light, many reef dwelling animals are but this has not always been taken into account in previous studies of reef communities.

Thanks to generous support provided by a Yulgilbar Foundation Fellowship, Dr Shelby Temple, and a team of researchers from the Ecology of Vision Laboratory in Bristol's School of , will take their camera to the Lizard Island Research Station to study how the coral reef environment looks to animals that can see polarized light.

Dr Temple said: "Many reef dwelling animals, like octopus, , shrimp and maybe even some fish, are sensitive to polarized light. It's hard for us to understand what that means because we really can't see the polarization of light without some kind of aid, like polarized glasses or specialized polarization converting cameras like this one."

The camera enables the researchers to measure the . It then converts these polarization images into false colour images, where different colours are used to represent different polarizations of light.

"It's a bit like using an that turns the we can't see into colours that we can," said Dr Temple.

Preliminary results from Dr Temple's research suggest that the polarization dimension of the visual world under water is much more complex than previously thought.

He said: "There's evidence that all types of communication and camouflage are going on, which we've essentially been blind to – until now. Imagine how different our understanding of coral reefs would be if we only saw in black and white.

"Lizard Island is an ideal setting for our research because we can test an animal and when we return it to its home we can then measure the polarization signals in the very environment where we found it."

Explore further: Gulf health 5 years after BP spill: Resilient yet scarred

Related Stories

Mantis shrimps could show us the way to a better DVD

Oct 25, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The remarkable eyes of a marine crustacean could inspire the next generation of DVD and CD players, according to a new study from the University of Bristol published today in Nature Photonics.

Student Develops First Polarized LED

Mar 03, 2008

In recent years, light emitting diodes (LEDs) have begun to change the way we see the world. Now, a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute student has developed a new type of LED that could allow for their widespread ...

Study: Squid are masters of disguise

Sep 25, 2006

U.S. marine scientists say squid are masters of disguise, using their pigmented skin cells to camouflage themselves nearly instantaneously from predators.

Light Scattering Method Reveals Details under Skin

Apr 12, 2005

A new optical method that can image subsurface structures under skin has been demonstrated by scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. The met ...

Recommended for you

China's struggle for water security

17 hours ago

Way back in 1999, before he became China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao warned that water scarcity posed one of the greatest threats to the "survival of the nation".

Canada revises upward CO2 emission data since 1990

17 hours ago

Canada revised its greenhouse gas emission data from 1990 to 2013 in a report Friday, showing it had higher carbon dioxide discharges each year, and a doubling of emissions from its oil sands.

Climate censorship gains steam in red states

Apr 17, 2015

While plenty of people found humor in the recent news that officials in Florida and Wisconsin are censoring state workers' ability to talk about, much less work on, climate change, other states are not necessarily laughing. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.