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Physiol Behav. 2012 Feb 28;105(4):1067-75. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.11.020. Epub 2011 Dec 1.

No evidence for behavioral responses to circularly polarized light in four scarab beetle species with circularly polarizing exocuticle.

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Environmental Optics Laboratory, Department of Biological Physics, Physical Institute, Eötvös University, H-1117 Budapest, Pázmány sétány 1, Hungary.


The strongest known circular polarization of biotic origin is the left-circularly polarized (LCP) light reflected from the metallic shiny exocuticle of certain beetles of the family Scarabaeidae. This phenomenon has been discovered by Michelson in 1911. Although since 1955 it has been known that the human eye perceives a visual illusion when stimulated by circularly polarized (CP) light, it was discovered only recently that a stomatopod shrimp is able to perceive circular polarization. It is pertinent to suppose that scarab beetles reflecting LCP light in an optical environment (vegetation) being deficient in CP signals may also perceive circular polarization and use it to find each other (mate/conspecifics) as until now it has been believed. We tested this hypothesis in six choice experiments with several hundred individuals of four scarab species: Anomala dubia, Anomala vitis (Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae, Rutelinae), and Cetonia aurata, Potosia cuprea (Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae, Cetoniinae), all possessing left-circularly polarizing exocuticle. From the results of our experiments we conclude that the studied four scarab species are not attracted to CP light when feeding or looking for mate or conspecifics. We demonstrated that the light reflected by host plants of the investigated scarabs is circularly unpolarized. Our results finally solve a puzzle raised over one hundred years ago, when Michaelson discovered that scarab beetles reflect circularly polarized light.

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