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Are harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) able to perceive and use polarised light?

Hanke, Frederike D.; Miersch, Lars; Warrant, Eric LU ; Mitschke, Fedor M. and Dehnhardt, Guido (2013) In Journal of Comparative Physiology A 199(6). p.509-519
Abstract
Harbour seals are active at night and during the day and see well in both air and water. Polarised light, which is a well-known visual cue for orientation, navigation and foraging, is richly available in harbour seal habitats, both above and below the water surface. We hypothesised that an ability to detect and use polarised light could be valuable for seals, and thus tested if they are able to see this property of light. We performed two behavioural experiments, one involving object discrimination and the other involving object detection. These objects were presented to the seals as two-dimensional stimuli on a specially modified liquid crystal display that generated objects whose contrast was purely defined in terms of polarisation (i.e.... (More)
Harbour seals are active at night and during the day and see well in both air and water. Polarised light, which is a well-known visual cue for orientation, navigation and foraging, is richly available in harbour seal habitats, both above and below the water surface. We hypothesised that an ability to detect and use polarised light could be valuable for seals, and thus tested if they are able to see this property of light. We performed two behavioural experiments, one involving object discrimination and the other involving object detection. These objects were presented to the seals as two-dimensional stimuli on a specially modified liquid crystal display that generated objects whose contrast was purely defined in terms of polarisation (i.e. objects lacked luminance contrast). In both experiments, the seals' performance did not deviate significantly from chance. In contrast, the seals showed a high baseline performance when presented with objects on a non-modified display (whose contrast was purely defined in terms of luminance). We conclude that harbour seals are unable to use polarised light in our experimental context. It remains for future work to elucidate if they are polarisation insensitive per se. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Harbour seal, Phoca vitulina, Polarisation, Object detection, Liquid, crystal display monitor
in
Journal of Comparative Physiology A
volume
199
issue
6
pages
509 - 519
publisher
Springer
external identifiers
  • wos:000319513500008
  • scopus:84878437373
ISSN
1432-1351
DOI
10.1007/s00359-012-0762-x
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
279d752b-f1ee-4d79-95d2-38f3dcc17e5f (old id 3931584)
date added to LUP
2013-07-15 14:19:55
date last changed
2019-06-11 01:58:48
@article{279d752b-f1ee-4d79-95d2-38f3dcc17e5f,
  abstract     = {Harbour seals are active at night and during the day and see well in both air and water. Polarised light, which is a well-known visual cue for orientation, navigation and foraging, is richly available in harbour seal habitats, both above and below the water surface. We hypothesised that an ability to detect and use polarised light could be valuable for seals, and thus tested if they are able to see this property of light. We performed two behavioural experiments, one involving object discrimination and the other involving object detection. These objects were presented to the seals as two-dimensional stimuli on a specially modified liquid crystal display that generated objects whose contrast was purely defined in terms of polarisation (i.e. objects lacked luminance contrast). In both experiments, the seals' performance did not deviate significantly from chance. In contrast, the seals showed a high baseline performance when presented with objects on a non-modified display (whose contrast was purely defined in terms of luminance). We conclude that harbour seals are unable to use polarised light in our experimental context. It remains for future work to elucidate if they are polarisation insensitive per se.},
  author       = {Hanke, Frederike D. and Miersch, Lars and Warrant, Eric and Mitschke, Fedor M. and Dehnhardt, Guido},
  issn         = {1432-1351},
  keyword      = {Harbour seal,Phoca vitulina,Polarisation,Object detection,Liquid,crystal display monitor},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {6},
  pages        = {509--519},
  publisher    = {Springer},
  series       = {Journal of Comparative Physiology A},
  title        = {Are harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) able to perceive and use polarised light?},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00359-012-0762-x},
  volume       = {199},
  year         = {2013},
}