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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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Essay/
Physics
Out of nowhere

Does everything in the world boil down to basic units – or can emergence explain how distinctive new things arise?

Paul Humphreys

Essay/
Cosmology
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Ever since Heisenberg and Tagore, physicists have flirted with Eastern philosophy. Is there anything in the romance?

Zeeya Merali