The asymmetry of the underwater horizontal light field and its implications for mirror-based camouflage in silvery pelagic fish


Journal Article

© 2014, by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, Inc. Many pelagic species, particularly teleost fish, have silvered lateral surfaces that are thought to primarily serve as a form of camouflage. The underlying argument is that the underwater light field is cylindrically symmetrical around the vertical axis; thus a vertical mirror reflects a region of the water column that matches the region directly behind the mirror. However, the degree of symmetry of the underwater light field itself has not been assessed. Modeled underwater radiances from the surface to a depth of 100 m using measured profiles of inherent optical properties and HydroLight radiative transfer software showed that the horizontal light field under sunny conditions was asymmetrical over a wide range of solar elevations. In addition, the maximum asymmetry at 100 m occurred not when the sun was near the horizon, but when it was 45u above it. We validated these modeled results in Hawaiian waters using a modification of a commercial radiometer. Both modeled and measured radiances showed that the inherent contrast of silvery fish was typically higher at longer wavelengths. However, models of the sighting distances of these surfaces showed that sighting distance was greatest at the peak wavelength of the downwelling irradiance (,480 nm). The modeled and measured asymmetry of the horizontal light field implies that mirror camouflage is not always as successful as originally thought and suggests that there may be further refinements for this form of crypsis that have not been previously considered.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Johnsen, S; Gassmann, E; Reynolds, RA; Stramski, D; Mobley, C

Published Date

  • January 1, 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 59 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 1839 - 1852

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0024-3590

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.4319/lo.2014.59.6.1839

Citation Source

  • Scopus