How certain fishes can overcome a basic law of reflection?

Herring fish has the ability to overcome a basic law of reflection (Credit: iStock)Researchers have found the mechanism through which certain fishes can overcome one of the basic laws of physics.

This research has been done by researchers from University of Bristol and published online in the journal Nature Photonics.

This research gives the concept that not only quantum physics is weird but our macro world does have many law overcoming concepts requiring a lot of study.

Researchers have found that how some of the fishes such as herring, sardine and sprat are able to overcome the law of physics. Usually, reflective surfaces of the fishes polarize light causing the fishermen and the photographers to use polarizing sunglasses or polarizing filters to reduce reflective glare but these fishes have the ability to overcome this law of reflection that helps them to remain hidden from the predators.

It was already known that the fish’s skin has reflective guanine crystals to polarize light and in this study researchers have found that there are two types of guanine crystals with different optical properties inhbiting the polarization of the reflected light and maintaining high reflectivity.

Brilliant fish skin

Dr Nicholas Roberts in Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences said: “We believe these species of fish have evolved this particular multilayer structure to help conceal them from predators, such as dolphin and tuna.  These fish have found a way to maximize their reflectivity over all angles they are viewed from.  This helps the fish best match the light environment of the open ocean, making them less likely to be seen.”

Due to this ability, the skin of silvery fish could hold the key to better optical devices.  Tom Jordan, PhD student, said: “Many modern day optical devices such as LED lights and low loss optical fibres use these non-polarizing types of reflectors to improve efficiency.  However, these man-made reflectors currently require the use of materials with specific optical properties that are not always ideal.  The mechanism that has evolved in fish overcomes this current design limitation and provides a new way to manufacture these non-polarizing reflectors.”


T. M. Jordan, J. C. Partridge & N. W. Roberts, (2012). Non-polarizing broadband multilayer reflectors in fish. Nature Photonics, doi:10.1038/nphoton.2012.260

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