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Lookdown uses tricks of light as camouflage

Posted March TK, 2014. Photo by J K L Hills.

The lookdown (Selene vomer) is so named because, you guessed it, its eyes look down at its nose. The fish has a clever method of camouflage that scientists are just beginning to understand.

Schools of lookdowns travel in the open ocean where blending in means looking like water. The look of the water changes constantly as the sun moves and polarized light fields shift.

The lookdown can mirror its surroundings and manipulate the polarized light that hits its scales. Many fish can ‘see’ polarized light (humans can’t), so the lookdown’s ability to go beyond a basic mirror is powerful protection. It’s perfectly camouflaged, no matter the light’s angle.

Researchers are trying to figure out how the fish changes, and the U.S. Navy is interested in mimicking its ocean camouflage. Visit these masters of disguise at the Ocean Tank in the ABQ BioPark Aquarium.

Which other animals can you think of with unique camouflage abilities? Tell us on Facebook.

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