Israeli discovery of how shrimp see could pave way for optical innovations

Just because shrimps aren’t kosher doesn’t mean that they aren’t interesting to study.

By World Israel News Staff

Drs. Ben Palmer and Venkata Jayashurya Yallapragada of Ben Gurion University of the Negev and Drs. Dan Oron, Steve Weiner and Lia Addadi of the Weizmann Institute of Science have figured out how shrimp can see in the murky depths of the sea.

According to their research, unlike human eyes that work with lenses, a shrimp’s eyes are compounded like those of an insect. Such an eye contains a series of nanometer-sized mirrors arrayed in a concave formation that functions somewhat like a lens.

The researchers paid special attention to the reflective material that coats the rhabdoms, which are light detectors in the shrimp’s retina. These rhabdoms, which are highly sensitive to light, are arranged in the retina in seven-pointed star formations.

The rhabdom coating is composed of dozens of unique biocrystals that form a series of “hollow balls” when stacked up against each other. These “hollow balls”  have a property known as “double refraction” that allows the shrimp to see fully even if it is only given the weakest ray of light.

In this way, the faintest blue light that filters through the water allows the shrimp to discern nearby objects in the dim conditions in which they live. The scientists hope the findings of this research will inspire the creation of new optical coatings and specialized paints.