Shedding light on the senses fish use for navigation

Apr 25, 2013
Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Image: Knepp, Timothy - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

(Phys.org) —New research conducted at Queen's University has discovered that polarized light vision, which is used for navigation and orientation by rainbow trout, changes with age.

Young fish can navigate relative to the polarized light field in the sky, yet older fish performing intricate orientation tasks seem to lose their ability to navigate using the polarized skylight field. A research study led by Shai Sabbah in the laboratory of Craig Hawryshyn (Biology) at Queen's may help solve this mystery.

"We found that young fish use only the bottom half of their eyes to detect polarized . Remarkably, we also found that the that detects polarized light signals switches during development," says Dr. Sabbah. "Older fish lose their ability to detect polarized light signals in the bottom half of their eyes but gain the ability to detect them in the top half of their eyes."

The switch from bottom-half to top-half sensitivity allows older fish that swim in deeper water to use the underwater polarized light field, which allows for more accurate navigation. Owing to this switch, are therefore able to navigate effectively throughout their development.

Polarized light vision is the ability to distinguish between different angles of polarized light. Many invertebrates and vertebrates use this type of vision to find their way on land and through air and water.

To determine what eye region the fish were using, Dr. Sabbah and colleagues measured the from the of the fish in response to shining light at different angles of polarization on their eyes.

These findings can help solve long-standing questions regarding the senses used by salmonid fish (including rainbow trout and salmon) for navigation. These fish show one of the most complex navigation behaviours known in the .

The research appeared in the April 24 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.

Explore further: Boy moms more social in chimpanzees

More information: www.jneurosci.org/content/33/17/7428.abstract

Related Stories

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 ...

Brain 'GPS' illuminated in migratory monarch butterflies

Jan 26, 2011

A new study takes a close look at the brain of the migratory monarch butterfly to better understand how these remarkable insects use an internal compass and skylight cues to navigate from eastern North America to Mexico each ...

Beetles stand out using Avatar tech

Apr 14, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study suggests that jewel scarab beetles find each other -- and hide from their enemies -- using the same technology that creates the 3D effects for the blockbuster movie Avatar.

Recommended for you

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.