Circular Polarization Vision of Scarab Beetles

  • Gábor HorváthEmail author
  • Miklós Blahó
  • Ádám Egri
  • Ramón Hegedüs
  • Győző Szél
Part of the Springer Series in Vision Research book series (SSVR, volume 2)


In this chapter the occurrence of circularly polarized (CP) light in nature (both in the abiotic and biotic optical environment) is surveyed. We deal with the reason and the possible adaptive significance of CP light reflected from the exocuticle of many beetle species belonging to the Scarabaeoidea. This unique feature of the insect exocuticle seems to have evolved only in scarabaeoids. The imaging polarimetry of circularly polarizing scarab beetles and its results are reviewed. The alleged CP sensitivity in Chrysina gloriosa scarabs is briefly discussed. Finally, the experimental evidence for the lack of CP vision in the scarab species Anomala dubia, A. vitis (Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae, Rutelinae), Cetonia aurata, and Protaetia cuprea (Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae, Cetoniinae) with circularly polarizing exocuticle is presented.


Linearly Polarize Circularly Polarize Choice Experiment Cholesteric Liquid Crystal Stokes Vector 
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Supplementary material (657 kb)
Colour Version of Fig. 6.1 (a) Portrait of the Nobel laureate American physicist, Albert Abraham Michelson (1852–1931), who discovered in 1911 that the light reflected from the exocuticle of the golden scarab beetle Chrysina resplendens is left-circularly polarized. (b) Chrysina resplendens. (c) The structure of the left-circularly polarizing exocuticle of scarabs is optically analogous to that of the cholesteric liquid crystals composed of layers in which the chitin fibres are ordered more or less parallel to each other, and the fibre direction turns continuously and evenly from layer to layer (the fibres of which have the same colour here) with a constant pitch. Due to this helicoidal structure, a white unpolarized incident light becomes green LC polarized after reflection, while the transmitted light is a combination of violet LCP and white RCP light (CDR 663 kb) (2.3 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.1 Linear and circular polarization patterns of the scarab beetle Chrysophora chrysochlora measured by imaging polarimetry in the red (650 nm), green (550 nm) and blue (450 nm) ranges of the spectrum. The upper row shows the appearance through an LC and an RC polarizer and without a polarizer. Below ac, the panels are sorted by wavelength (650, 550, 450 nm). Rows df, gi, jl, mo display the intensity I, degree of linear polarization dL, angle of polarization α (measured clockwise from the vertical) and degree of circular polarization dc. The illumination of the beetle was omnidirectional due to two circular light tubes. The circular arrows show the handedness of circularly polarized light transmitted by the polarizers (CDR 2357 kb) (1.4 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.2 As Supplementary Fig. 6.1 from the side (CDR 1406 kb) (3.1 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.3 As Supplementary Fig. 6.1 for Chrysina resplendens. The beetle was illuminated by diffuse ambient light in order to avoid the disturbing mirror image of the circular light tubes. The inset in the top right corner shows the portrait of the Nobel laureate American physicist, Albert Abraham Michelson (1852–1931), who discovered in 1911 that the light reflected from the cuticle of Chrysina resplendens is LC polarized (CDR 3213 kb) (1.4 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.4 As Supplementary Fig. 6.3 from the side (CDR 1394 kb) (3.5 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.5 As Supplementary Fig. 6.1 for the scarab beetle Chrysina macropus (CDR 3606 kb) (3.3 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.6 As Supplementary Fig. 6.5 from the side (CDR 3352 kb) (1.2 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.7 As Supplementary Fig. 6.1 for the scarab beetle Calomacraspis haroldi (CDR 1230 kb) (4.1 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.8 As Supplementary Fig. 6.1 for the scarab beetle Ischiopsopha lucivorax (CDR 4164 kb) (3.9 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.9 As Supplementary Fig. 6.1 for a tropical flower scarab beetle (CDR 4041 kb) (2.2 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.10 As Supplementary Fig. 6.1 for the scarab beetle Protaetia jousselini (CDR 2295 kb) (3.1 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.11 Photographs of scarab beetles Protaetia cuprea, Anomala vitis and Anomala dubia (row 1: living beetles feeding on apple slices in a plastic container, rows 2 and 3: dead beetles) taken without a polarizer and through an LC and an RC polarizer. The circular arrows show the handedness of CP light transmitted by the polarizers [after Fig. 1 on page 1068 of Blahó et al. (2012)] (CDR 3180 kb) (1.8 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.12 Arrangement of the preliminary experiments 1 and 2 of Blahó et al. (2012) with the two vertically aligned circular polarizers (a), and their photographs taken through an LC polarizer (b) and an RC polarizer (c) [after Supplementary Fig. S9 of Blahó et al. (2012)] (CDR 1824 kb) (50 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.13 Arrangement of experiment 1 of Blahó et al. (2012) from a top view [after Supplementary Fig. S1 of Blahó et al. (2012)] (CDR 58 kb) (5.7 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.14 (af) Structure of the choice box used in experiment 2 of Blahó et al. (2012). (a) Choice box in its normal position with the release cylinder in the centre. (bc) Choice box with its upside down showing the 6 sectors and 12 windows from a tilted (b) and vertical (c) direction of view. (df) The two windows of a sector with an RC and an LC polarizer photographed without a polarizer (d), and through an RC polarizer (e) and an LC polarizer (f). (gi) The three colour pictures used in the choice box [after Supplementary Fig. S3 of Blahó et al. (2012)] (CDR 5820 kb) (12.7 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.15 (a) A CSALOMON® VARb3 funnel trap used by Blahó et al. (2012) in their experiment 4, in which the dead beetles were glued to the inside of the transparent upper funnel. (bd) Photographs of the dead scarabs (Anomala vitis, A. dubia, Cetonia aurata) glued to the trap [after Supplementary Fig. S6 of Blahó et al. (2012)] (CDR 12960 kb) (4.8 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.16 Structure of a sector of the choice box (with its upside down) used in experiment 5 of Blahó et al. (2012) and photographed without a polarizer (a) and through a linear polarizer, the transmission direction of which is shown by the black doubleheaded arrow. Seen from the box, in each sector one of the two windows transmitted totally linearly polarized light (whose direction of polarization was 45° from the horizontal and is shown here by the white double-headed arrow), and the other window transmitted left-circularly polarized light [after Supplementary Fig. S7 of Blahó et al. (2012)] (CDR 4960 kb) (6.5 mb)
Supplementary Fig. 6.17 Structure of the choice box used in the pilot experiments and experiment 6 of Blahó et al. (2012). (a) Photograph of the choice box. Seen from the box, one of the windows transmitted left-circularly polarized light and the other window transmitted unpolarized light. (b) The choice box in a dark room illuminated by unpolarized light and photographed with its upside down without a polarizer. (c) As b but here photographed through a right-circular polarizer [after Supplementary Fig. S8 of Blahó et al. (2012)] (CDR 6677 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gábor Horváth
    • 1
    Email author
  • Miklós Blahó
    • 1
  • Ádám Egri
    • 1
  • Ramón Hegedüs
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Győző Szél
    • 5
  1. 1.Environmental Optics Laboratory, Department of Biological Physics, Physical InstituteEötvös UniversityBudapestHungary
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for InformaticsSaarbrueckenGermany
  3. 3.INRIA Sud-Ouest BordeauxTalenceFrance
  4. 4.Laboratoire Photonique, Numérique et Nanosciences (L2PN), UMR 5298CNRS IOGS University Bordeaux, Institut d’Optique d’AquitaineTalenceFrance
  5. 5.Coleoptera Collection, Department of ZoologyHungarian Natural History MuseumBudapestHungary

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