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NCKU Professor’s Research on Mantis Shrimp Eyes Published

28 February 2014

TAIWAN - National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) Professor Tsyr-Huei Chiou revealed that the eyes of mantis shrimp use 12 different colour channels to react to a specific colour and analyse what it seen into the brain without processing or distinguishing the colours.

“The 12 photoreceptors operate independently, as well as process each wavelength of light in parallel to the others, giving the mantis shrimp’s colour vision system a very high efficiency,” said Professor Chiou from the Department of Life Sciences, NCKU, southern Taiwan.

Mr Chiou has worked with an Australia-based team of marine biologists for many years and their study which is published in the journal Science in January offers insight into the unique colour vision of mantis shrimp.

“People supposed that mantis shrimp with 12 photoreceptors should be far better at distinguishing colour s than humans are; however, the findings indicated that mantis shrimp do not,” said Mr Chiou.

He also said, “Actually, mantis shrimp with 12 colour channels processing perform worse in differentiating between colour s than humans with their 3 channels.”

This critical finding shattered the illusion that complex eyes with more colour channels mean better colour vision.

According to Mr Chiou, mantis shrimp’s ability to discriminate between colour s is tested in the study and the results indicate another way of colour processing which may inspire innovative technologies in the applied sciences.

Mr Chiou’s research team is currently targeting the neural link between the photoreceptor cells and the mantis shrimp brain, in order to analyse what signals are being transmitted.

Mr Chiou whose research interest is in visual physiology of marine invertebrates revealed his future study is to model the mantis shrimp’s vision nervous system and further develop and improve performance of the parallel processing mechanism and technology.

He mentioned that most of his recent work focuses on the sensing of polarized light, namely polarization vision.

Currently Mr Chiou has been working on two very distinct marine animal groups, stomatopod crustaceans and cephalopod mollusks.

He said, in addition to the differences between the compound eye and lens eye, the colour vision capacity of these two animal groups represent two extremes in the animal kingdom.

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