The use of polarized light in the zonal orientation of the sandhopper Talitrus saltator (Montagu)

Alberto Ugolini*, Takahiko Hariyama*, David C. Wilcockson, Luca Mercatelli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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It is well known that the celestial polarization is used as a compass cue by many species of insects and crustaceans. Although it has been shown that the sandhopper Talitrus saltator perceives polarized light and possesses an arrangement of the rhabdomeres that could allow e-vector interpretation and utilization, T. saltator does not use the e-vector of the skylight polarization as a compass cue when making excursions along the sea–land axis of sandy shores. We performed tests in confined conditions to clarify if skylight polarization is somehow involved in the zonal recovery of T. saltator. We observed the directional responses of sandhoppers in a transparent bowl under an artificial sky (an opaline Plexiglas dome). The bowl was covered by a blue gelatin filter with a grey filter (control condition) and a linear polarizing filter (experimental conditions) positioned under the blue one in such a way as to occupy half of the upper surface of the Plexiglas bowl so as to create a linear polarization gradient. Our experiments confirm that T. saltator perceives polarized light and highlight that this visual capability determines the perception, or perhaps the increase, of the radiance and/or spectral gradient and their use as compass cues in the zonal orientation. Moreover, our findings confirm that the radiance gradient is used as a chronometric compass orienting reference in the absence of other celestial orienting cues.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Number of pages7
JournalZoological Letters
Issue number1
Early online date18 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Talitrus saltator
  • Spectral gradient
  • Radiance gradient
  • Celestial orientation
  • Skylight polarization


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