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J R Soc Interface. 2014 Sep 6;11(98):20140407. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2014.0407.

A dynamic broadband reflector built from microscopic silica spheres in the 'disco' clam Ctenoides ales.

Author information

1
Department of Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA lindseydougherty@berkeley.edu.
2
Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.
3
Department of Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.
4
Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia.

Abstract

The 'disco' or 'electric' clam Ctenoides ales (Limidae) is the only species of bivalve known to have a behaviourally mediated photic display. This display is so vivid that it has been repeatedly confused for bioluminescence, but it is actually the result of scattered light. The flashing occurs on the mantle lip, where electron microscopy revealed two distinct tissue sides: one highly scattering side that contains dense aggregations of spheres composed of silica, and one highly absorbing side that does not. High-speed video confirmed that the two sides act in concert to alternate between vivid broadband reflectance and strong absorption in the blue region of the spectrum. Optical modelling suggests that the diameter of the spheres is nearly optimal for scattering visible light, especially at shorter wavelengths which predominate in their environment. This simple mechanism produces a striking optical effect that may function as a signal.

KEYWORDS:

Ctenoides; bivalve; optics; reflection; scattering; silica

PMID:
24966236
PMCID:
PMC4233689
DOI:
10.1098/rsif.2014.0407
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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