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Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

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The snail-smashing, fish-spearing, eye-popping mantis shrimp

4 minutes

How the mantis shrimp’s six-pupiled eyes put 20/20 vision to shame

One of nature’s most physiologically fascinating creatures, mantis shrimp are not only the fastest attackers in the animal kingdom, but they also possess what might be the world’s most interesting and impressive set of eyes. Each mantis shrimp eye has three ‘pupils’, with receptors for 12 distinct colours – yet another world record. But perhaps the most amazing aspect of mantis shrimp eyes are their ability to detect polarised light – largely invisible to humans – which they use to signal to other mantis shrimp that a burrow is occupied from afar, preventing close-quarters showdowns to the death. Taking the mantis shrimp’s lead, scientists are hoping to use a camera that detects light polarisation to catch certain kinds of cancer early.

Video by KQED Science and PBS Digital Studios

Producer: Elliott Kennerson

Narrator and Writer: Amy Standen

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Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.
But we can’t do it without you.

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.
But we can’t do it without you.

Support Aeon

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