How can dragonflies discern bright and dark waters from a distance? The degree of polarisation of reflected light as a possible cue for dragonfly habitat selection

B. Bernáth, Gábor Szedenics, Hansruedi Wildermuth, Gábor Horváth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

58 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

1. Based on the findings that some dragonflies prefer either 'dark' or 'bright' water (as perceived by the human eye viewing downwards perpendicularly to the water surface), while others choose both types of water bodies in which to lay their eggs, the question arises: How can dragonflies distinguish a bright from a dark pond from far away, before they get sufficiently close to see it is bright or dark? 2. Our hypothesis is that certain dragonfly species may select their preferred breeding sites from a distance on the basis of the polarisation of reflected light. Is it that waters viewed from a distance can be classified on the basis of the polarisation of reflected light? 3. Therefore we measured, at an angle of view of 20° from the horizontal, the reflection-polarisation characteristics of several ponds differing in brightness and in their dragonfly fauna. 4. We show that from a distance, at which the angle of view is 20° from the horizontal, dark water bodies cannot be distinguished from bright ones on the basis of the intensity or the angle of polarisation of reflected light. At a similar angle of view, however, dark waters reflect light with a significantly higher degree of linear polarisation than bright waters in any range of the spectrum and in any direction of view with respect to the sun. 5. Thus, the degree of polarisation of reflected light may be a visual cue for the polarisation-sensitive dragonflies to distinguish dark and bright water bodies from far away. Future experimental studies should prove if dragonflies do indeed use this cue for habitat selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1707-1719
Number of pages13
JournalFreshwater Biology
Volume47
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2002

Fingerprint

dragonfly
Anisoptera (Odonata)
habitat preferences
habitat selection
polarization
body water
water
pond
visual cue
breeding sites
breeding site
eyes
fauna
experimental study
egg
surface water
water body

Keywords

  • Dark and bright freshwater habitats
  • Dragonflies
  • Habitat selection
  • Polarisation vision
  • Reflection polarisation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science

Cite this

How can dragonflies discern bright and dark waters from a distance? The degree of polarisation of reflected light as a possible cue for dragonfly habitat selection. / Bernáth, B.; Szedenics, Gábor; Wildermuth, Hansruedi; Horváth, Gábor.

In: Freshwater Biology, Vol. 47, No. 9, 09.2002, p. 1707-1719.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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