The special compound eyes of mantis shrimp are the blueprint of a new breed of camera that will detect cancers and visualise brain activity, according to scientists at the University of Queensland in Australia.
Using miniscule polarisers instead of the usual colour filter arrays, these sophisticated digital cameras see the polarisation of light rather than the colour – and that means it will be able to see previously unseeable things such as cancer tissue.
This groundbreaking technology is inspired by the mantis shrimp which has eyes that “use light polarisation to detect and discriminate between objects.”
Professor Justin Marshall, who works at the University’s Queensland Brain Institute, said that cancerous tissue reflects polarised light differently to healthy tissue. It is this difference that the mantis shrimp can identify.
The rarest animals in the world
The rarest animals in the world
1/23 Goblin shark
Dubbed the "alien of the deep", the goblin shark was caught by a commercial fisherman off the coast of Eden, New South Wales. The carcass of the terrifying looking creature was then donated to the Australian Museum in Sydney so that it could be dissected
2/23 Glass frog
Scientists in South America have discovered a brand new species of frog – and he’s a dead ringer for Kermit the frog. Hyalinobatrachium dianae is an inch-long glass frog with identical bright green skin, a translucent belly, and bulging white eyes with black pupils. The new species found by Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center on the Talamanca hills of the country, was named after the senior researcher’s mother Diane and brought the total known species of glass frogs on the island to 14
BBC via YouTube
3/23 Walking fish (climbing perch)
A bizarre and seemingly super-powered fish which can walk out of water and breathe on land for up to six days could spell a 'major disaster' for wildlife, scientists have warned. The aggressive climbing perch, which has lungs as well as gills, has been discovered in northern Australia
4/23 Frilled shark
A rare and terrifying frilled shark has been pulled from the water by fishermen near Lakes Entrance in Victoria, Australia. Also known as the "living fossil", the frilled shark is named for its six pairs of frill-like gills. The shark’s origin dates back 80 million years, and is one of two species that is still alive from this period
5/23 Black Sea Devil anglerfish
Researchers in the US have released what they believe to be the first video footage showing a bizarre-looking Black Sea Devil anglerfish in the wild. As anglerfish live in the deep sea, they are very rarely seen in their natural habitat, and fewer than half a dozen have ever been captured on film or video in the wild, according to experts at the Monterrey Bay Acquarium Research Institute (MBARI)
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
6/23 Blue lobster
A rare blue lobster was caught off Pine Point in Scarborough, Maine. The crustacean is being donated to the Maine State Aquarium
AP Photo/Meghan LaPlante
7/23 Two-headed dolphin
A con-joined dolphin found on the beach of the Aegean Sea coastal town of Dikili, Izmir province of Turkey
8/23 Conjoined whales
A pair of conjoined gray whale calves have been found off the coast of Mexico, in what scientists believe could be the first discovery of its kind
9/23 Fish-eating spider (Dolomedes facetus)
Dolomedes facetus captured pond fish (genus Xiphophorus) in a garden pond near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The number of spiders who catch and eat fish is on the rise across the world, scientists believe
Peter Liley, Moffat Beach, Queensland
10/23 Dancing frogs
A frog couple from one of the 14 new species of so-called dancing frogs
AP/Satyabhama Das Biju
Conservationists in New Zealand are celebrating after an extremely rare kakapo chick hatched from a cracked egg held together by nothing more than tape and glue. The bird joins a global kakapo population of just 125 birds
Creative Commons. Photo: jidanchaomian, via Flickr.
12/23 Migaloo the white whale
Migaloo the white whale, sighted at the Bernard Islands
Twitter/Migaloo the Whale
13/23 Domed land snail
Living in complete darkness more than 900 metres below the surface has left this tiny snail with no pigmentation in its shell. Discovered in the caves of western Croatia the Zospeum tholussum is also a slow mover, creeping just a few centimeters each week.
14/23 Leaf-tailed gecko
The mottled colouring on this gecko helps it blend in with the rain forests and rocky habitats of eastern Australia. It also has an extremely wide tail (from which it gets its name) to further confuse predators
15/23 Flying frog
A Giant green flying frog which is among the new species found by scientists in the Greater Mekong region
16/23 Megamouth shark
An extremely rare female deep-water megamouth shark has been caught off the coast of Shizuoka, Japan, and is believed to be only the 58 sighting of the animal on record
17/23 A Maui's dolphin
Fears grow for Maui's dolphins after New Zealand government opens west coast block for oil and gas drilling
A rare goat-sheep hybrid has been born on an Irish farm, much to the surprise of a farmer who said the ‘geep’ is thriving since its birth
Irish Farmers Journal
19/23 Omani owl
An Omani Owl, a species completely new to science
20/23 Albino dolphin
A rare albino calf being herded into Japan's notorious Taiji 'killing' Cove, where hundreds of dolphins are slaughtered during its annual hunt
21/23 Stone curlew
The stone curlew is one of the UK's most threatened birds and has recently returned from their wintering grounds in Africa and Spain
22/23 Mascarene Petrel
A unique photograph has been taken of a bird with a visible egg showing after experts sent to study a critically endangered Mascarene Petrel on a remote Indian Ocean tropical island encountered an undeniably pregnant member of the species
23/23 Albino cobra
A "very dangerous and venomous" albino cobra has been found in a suburban Los Angeles neighbourhood after escaping from a home there
Dept. of Animal Care and Control, County of Los Angeles
He said: “Humans can’t see this [light polarisation], but a mantis shrimp could walk up to it and hit it.
“We see colour with hues and shades, and objects that contrast – a red apple in a green tree for example – but our research is revealed a number of animals that use polarised light to detect and discriminate between objects.”
The project is a collaboration involving scientists in the US and the UK, and has been funded by The Australian Research Council, US Airforce Office of Scientific Research and the Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development.
It is hoped that the camera will reduce the need for invasive health procedures like biopsies.
Marshall said the camera will shoot video and “provide immediate feedback on detecting cancer and monitoring the activity of exposed nerve cells.”
“It converts the invisible messages into colours that our visual system is comfortable with.”
He refers to sun-glasses as the most commonly used light-polarisation technology, but stresses what he and his team are developing has already long been in existence within the eyes of the mantis shrimp.
He said: “Nature has coming up with elegant and efficient design principles, so we are combining the mantis shrimp’s millions of years of evolution – nature’s engineering – with our relatively few years of work with the technology.”
This research could theoretically lead to the redesign of smartphone cameras which would allow people to inspect themselves for cancer and lighten the load for health systems like the NHS.