"The case we have made is one of the best cases yet for understanding fluorescence in the underwater world," said Mazel, who discovered the fluorescing mantis shrimp using an underwater lighting and video system he developed and markets through a company he founded, NightSea, a subsidiary of Physical Sciences Inc. Mazel said that coral and squid and mantis shrimp aren't the only marine creatures that fluoresce: bristleworms, anemones and the occasional shrimp and fish also emit light, though probably not as a functional part of behavior.
The authors note that "Fluorescent signal enhancements are used by humans as well, both in ambient illumination (e.g. traffic safety cones, highlighter pens) and with ultraviolet augmentation (e.g. shop window displays, tattoos for the disco)."
Though the team reports on only one species of stomatopod, L. glabriuscula, a 22-centimeter (8.5-inch) crustacean that occurs throughout the western Atlantic, from the Carolinas to Brazil, the fluorescence is apparently a common characteristic of many other species of these crustaceans.
"It turns out that that Lysiosquillina glabriuscula was just the tip of the iceberg," Caldwell said. "We are seeing fluorescence in all different sorts of stomatopods. Practically every one we look at has some signal.
"Most people don't have a clue what these fluorescence patterns in other organisms might mean, if they mean anything at all. In fact, if you go out and look at coral and algae and algae in corals at 30 to 40 meters, you see all different kinds of colors - greens and oranges and yellows. It's probably just a byproduct of the pigments that are used."
But stomatopods are different.
Caldwell, Cronin and Marshall have collaborated for 15 years in the study of stomatopod
Contact: Robert Sanders
University of California - Berkeley