News FocusMARINE BIOLOGY

Light in the Deep

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Science  09 Mar 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6073, pp. 1160-1163
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6073.1160

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Summary

The sea is full of creatures with unusual eyes and innovative ways to manipulate light, traits that evolved out of necessity in a world where there's no place to hide and food and mates can be hard to find. To avoid being seen, organisms often play optical tricks. Some become transparent; others use illumination to distract potential predators or enlist help from predators of their attackers. These twinkling organisms have fascinated humans for millennia, but only in the past decade have the instruments to understand optical systems become commonplace. With them, researchers have learned what light is where, what organisms are seeing, and what they are doing. They have documented visual arms races between predator and prey that have resulted in the evolution of visual systems very different and much more sophisticated than our own, as they reported in January at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting.