Animal vision spans a great range of complexity, with systems evolving to detect variations in light intensity, distribution, colour, and polarisation. Polarisation vision systems studied to date detect one to four channels of linear polarisation, combining them in opponent pairs to provide intensity-independent operation. Circular polarisation vision has never been seen, and is widely believed to play no part in animal vision.
Polarisation is fully measured via Stokes' parameters—obtained by combined linear and circular polarisation measurements. Optimal polarisation vision is the ability to see Stokes' parameters: here we show that the crustacean Gonodactylus smithii measures the exact components required.