Many years ago, I became intrigued by the paradox of how difficult it is to design a detector, however apparently passive and stealthy, which cannot be ‘tricked’ into revealing its presence in a conspicuous way. I’ve also worked on a computer input system using retroreflectors.

In 2009, I was fascinated to read in New Scientist about work by Nico Michiels’ group in Tubingen, Germany on a fish called the triplefin blenny, whose eyes are surrounded by fluorescent rings. The piece was accompanied by a photograph: to me, it looked exactly as if the fish had a retroreflector-detecting system which could be used to detect the eyes of other animals, potential predators or prey. New Scientist published my letter, Nico got in touch and following an animated correspondence flew me to Germany for a brief visit, the situation looked intriguing. Unfortunately at exactly this point I became fascinated by fusion, about which you can read elsewhere on this blog, and neglected the matter.

Now a workshop is to take place, which I look forward to attending, on his group’s work on this to date and the search for related examples in the world of fish.

Never one to pause at a modest hypothesis, I speculate there may be examples throughout the animal kingdom, on land as well as in the sea. I’ll eat my hat if mantis shrimp and colossal squid aren’t doing something similar, and I strongly suspect certain other cephalopods, very likely some beetles, and possibly some birds. The details are at


Just possibly there are mammalian examples, as hinted at the end of the paper but I’m not ready to put those speculations in print yet.


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