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October 23 2012

Silvery Fish Elude Predators With Light-Bending

Silvery fish like sardines and Atlantic herring are masters of camouflage. A new study explains how the fish use their silvery skin to stay invisible to predators from nearly every angle.

“What these fish do is get around a fundamental law of reflection,” said Nicholas Roberts, a biologist at the University of Bristol and one of the study’s authors.

Typically, when light is reflected from different surfaces, any light that comes off the path of that reflection becomes polarized. That’s why fishermen wear polarized sunglasses. Silver fish avoid this problem because of the unique makeup of their skin, which has alternating layers of cytoplasm, as well as two types of guanine crystals (which refract light). The two types of crystals have different refractive indexes that create a unique reflective property.

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