Original Paper

Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 199, Issue 8, pp 669-680

First online:

Polarotaxis and scototaxis in the supratidal amphipod Platorchestia platensis

  • Jonathan H. CohenAffiliated withCollege of Earth, Ocean and Environment, School of Marine Science and Policy, University of Delaware Email author 
  • , Meagan R. PuttsAffiliated withDepartment of Marine Science, Eckerd College

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Talitrid amphipods use many cues for orientation during forays between temporary burrows and feeding areas, and for locating beaches when submerged, with visual cues being particularly important. Little evidence exists for polarized light among these visual cues despite extensive orientation by celestial and underwater polarized light in other crustaceans and in insects. We used electroretinography to assess spectral sensitivity in the eye of the beach flea Platorchestia platensis, and behavioral studies to test whether linearly polarized light serves as an orientation cue. Two spectral classes were present in the P. platensis eye with maxima at 431 and 520 nm. Non-uniform orientation of amphipods in the laboratory arena required either light/dark or polarized cues. Scototactic movements depended on arena conditions (day/night, wet/dry), while orientation under linearly polarized light was wavelength-dependent and parallel to the e-vector. Subsequent tests presented conflicting and additive scototactic and polarotactic cues to differentiate among these responses. In dry conditions, orientation parallel to the polarization e-vector overcame a dominant negative scototaxis, confirming that polarotaxis and scototaxis are separate orientation responses in this species. These behavioral results demonstrate talitrid amphipods can perceive and orient to linearly polarized light, and may use it to orient toward preferred zones on beaches.


Polarized light Orientation Spectral sensitivity Behavior Talitridae