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Shrimp-Inspired Navigation

May 15, 2018

The mantis shrimp’s ability to see circular polarized light inspires an underwater GPS system.


(Viktor Gruev/University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

(Viktor Gruev/University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)


Shrimp-inspired navigation. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

GPS systems have revolutionized navigation across the globe. But GPS radio signals don’t travel underwater, hindering geolocation. Enter the mantis shrimp, a creature whose eyes act like sophisticated polarized sunglasses, able to detect patterns of light that bend as they pass through water. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign engineer Victor Gruev says that these polarization patterns change depending on the position of the sun, a feature which could be used for navigation.

VICTOR GRUEV (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign):

All these polarization signatures underwater, they are dependent on the sun’s location with respect to where you are.


In the journal Science Advances, Gruev’s team describes a shrimp-inspired underwater GPS system. The technology could aid exploration, pollution tracking, and animal migration research. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard