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Mantis shrimp tune their eyes with sunscreen

The peculiar eyes of mantis shrimps use UV-blocking sunscreen to adjust sensitivity in the very cells needed to see ultraviolet light.

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Guest post by Susan Milius

The secret to a mantis shrimp’s ultraviolet vision is, oddly enough, UV-blocking sunscreen.

The mantis shrimp Neogonodactylus oerstedii sees its watery world via 16 kinds of light-detecting photoreceptor cells. Six kinds see only ultraviolet, each photoreceptor especially sensitive to a different wavelength. Yet five photoreceptor types have identical light-detecting pigments, says Michael Bok of Lund University in Sweden.  

Their diverse sensitivities come from different sets of tiny UV-absorbing filters above the visual pigments. The filters, with mycosporine-like amino acid compounds, block different wavelengths, Bok and his colleagues report in the July 21 Current Biology

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