Scientists at the University of Texas Austin have discovered one fish's ability to camouflage itself in the open ocean by using a real-life 'invisibility cloak.'
Researchers from the University of Texas, Austin have made an amazing discovery. According to a report from the Washington Post, biologists released a study on Thursday showing that two species of ocean fish, the big-eyed scad and the lookdown fish, avoid predators by utilizing a real-life invisibility cloak to hide themselves in plain sight.
The study was funded by the United States Navy, who wanted to find out how fish can leverage the way light travels through water in order to camouflage themselves. The study focused on just two species of fish, but the family Carangidae contains a vast collection of species.
The study was published in the journal Science, and explained how fish use their skin to blend in with the light waves penetrating the water column. The fish have evolved a feature on the outside of their skin called guanine platelets, microscopic features that manipulate the way the fish reflect under polarized light.
The Navy has been searching for methods for hiding submarines in deep water for quite some time. The breakthrough could mean that submarines covered in guanine platelets will take to the seas in the near future. By reflecting polarized light and directing it in various trajectories, engineers could make a gigantic submarine completely invisible.
The study took place in the deep waters off of the Florida Keys and Curaçao. According to Molly Cummings, a professor of integrative biology at the College of Natural Sciences and one of the study’s co-authors, the team hopes that they will be able to identify the process by which fish like big-eyed scad direct light away from themselves. It could hold serious implications for the way engineers utilize camouflage in deep water environments.
Fish were placed in a restraining device and videotaped as they swam throughout the water. A platform containing the fish rotated in full circles and recorded them using a polarimeter, a device that measures polarized light at different angles.
The footage of the fish revealed that they were extremely hard to detect. They were able to assume what the scientists called “chase angles,” in which they would have been nearly impossible for an approaching predator to see.
A press release from the University of Texas, Austin outlining the details of the study can be found here.