Animals' secret language 'identified'

Scientists claim to have identified a "secret language" used in the animal kingdom.

An international team has, in fact, found how animals use polarisation, a type of light that humans cannot see, as an important tool for communication, the 'Current Biology' journal reported.

In their research, the scientists focussed on a type of cuttlefish (close relative of octopus and squid) to show how polarisation is used for communication in the animal kingdom and its significance in biological signalling.

The findings revealed how cephalopods such as cuttlefish have the ability to see in many more directions of polarised light than previously thought, according to the scientists at UK's Bristol University and Australia's Queensland University.

Justin Marshall, a team member, said humans had not yet developed the language to describe all roles of polarisation in nature.

"Mammals and some other groups, don't appear to have P-vision, although many parts of the animal kingdom do. For example, other studies have found that animals such as ants and bees and even fish may used polarisation to navigate.

"Polarisation in animals has previously just been categorised as just an unusual and interesting phenomenon but the work we've done in the past few years shows that animals use P-vision in the same way we use colour, to communicate with each other," he said in a Queensland University release.

Prof Marshall said ironically animals such as cephalopods (cuttlefish, squid and octopi) were colour blind. Instead they have concentrated on polarisation vision.

"They have evolved perfectly to see light we cannot see and also use polarised skin patterns to camouflage into their backgrounds, giving them an advantage over some predators who did not have P-vision. Polarisation vision and communication has special utility and consequently has evolved in numerous marine species," he said.

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