By any measure, the mantis shrimp is a formidable creature. It can grow up to a foot in length and is a vicious predator, using its appendages to bludgeon or stab much larger creatures. When a mantis shrimp attacks, it propels its arms with the speed of a rifle blast. The punch is so powerful that aquariums cannot house larger members of the species because they can shatter the glass.
But the most miraculous part of a mantis shrimp may be its eyes. They have the most complex visual system of any known animal on earth, yet scientists don’t quite understand how they see. Mounted on stalks, mantis shrimp eyes have 12 photoreceptors, as compared to only three in humans. With so many receptors, mantis shrimp can see into the ultraviolet spectrum, and researchers had long surmised that they also experience colors that people cannot even imagine.
However, the most current research by Justin Marshall at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, has revealed that the mantis shrimp’s color vision is nothing special. In fact, Marshall explained to New Scientist that the animals cannot distinguish between similar colors, such as dark yellow and light orange.
Marshall’s research points to a revolutionary difference in processing rather than intake. In the human visual system, for instance, information reaches the eye and is then passed along to the brain where it is analyzed. This results in a delay, meaning that all human perception lags slightly. The mantis shrimp, scientists theorize, uses all those photoreceptors to analyze information in the eye itself, passing on a more complete picture to its brain much more quickly. The faster vision, say researchers, enables the mantis shrimp to attack its prey with speed and precision.
These new insights into mantis shrimp vision could help improve satellite imaging, which already works in a similar way, and fit more optical information onto discs, such as DVDs. The concept can also provide insight for security professionals looking to optimize the way businesses use data.
As this month’s cover story illustrates, developing an in-house intelligence function can result in faster and more accurate security response. Instead of working like the human eye—taking each piece of information and analyzing it separately before assigning meaning and context, security can use data collection and analysis to establish that context in advance, allowing for a quicker reaction. Learn how a utility company implemented such a process to evaluate external threats, thwart would-be thieves, and harden targets.
And while you have intelligence gathering and analysis on the mind, you can put those skills to great use in Atlanta at the ASIS International 60th Annual Seminar and Exhibits being held this month. The event offers the ultimate intelligence opportunity with hundreds of educational sessions and exhibitor booths. Enhance your own processing power and build a network of contacts that can help you assess information wisely and respond quickly to security threats.