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Love Code: A twist of light only mantis shrimp can see

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11:00am, March 19, 2008

For love, some would twist the laws of physics. Short of doing that, mantis shrimp communicate with the other sex by spinning light waves, biologists find. The feat seems to be unique to this animal.

Light is made of electromagnetic waves. These are electric and magnetic fields that wiggle perpendicular to each other and to a light ray's direction. Many invertebrates have sophisticated eyes that can detect wavelengths of light invisible to humans. Some, including bees, can also distinguish linearly polarized light. That's when a light ray's electric field wiggles not in varying directions, but rather in one precise direction that forms a right angle to the ray.

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