Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Shrimp from Mars

"Since they branched off from animals so early, their evolution took them in unique directions," said study co-author Tom Cronin, a visual physiology researcher at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "We used to call them shrimps from Mars, because their biology is so different from any other animal."

Like insects and other crustaceans, mantis shrimps possess compound eyes composed of thousands of rows of light-detecting units called ommatidia. These are especially refined in mantis shrimps, containing a mix of photoreceptors and filters that let them see 100,000 different colors -- 10 times more than can be detected by humans.

- via Wired.com, an article from 3/20/08

Above is a photo of a rather mysterious, intensely colorful creature named the "Mantis Shrimp", though it is neither a mantis nor a shrimp, but a stomatopod, a species distantly related to shrimps and lobsters.

The minute I stumbled upon this 2008 article today, I knew I had to post it. Apparently this little animal is the known sole possessor of eyes that can see what is called "circular polarized light" enabling it to see colors that we humans can't even conceive of! As an artist I am more than just a tad envious!

As the author of the Wired Science article - from which I grabbed the image - writes:

"Cronin called mantis shrimp eyes an outstanding system for studying the principles of visual evolution. But even that strikes me as a non-utilitarian purpose. Maybe someday scientists will make cybernetic optical implants that let me see a few thousand more colors — but until then, understanding the eye’s evolution isn’t so much a material application as a spiritual one. Knowledge is a fundamentally good thing: learning more about the world is intrinsically valuable, because it adds that much more depth and nuance and color to our experience of life."

To which I add: amen!

No comments: