Linear polarization characteristics within the Rosh HaNikra Mid-Littoral Cave, Israel

Masada Tzabari, Danielle Mayer Mayron, David Iluz, Zvy Dubinsky, Carynelisa Haspel

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Light polarization characteristics, i. e., degree of linear polarization (DoLP) and angle of linear polarization (AoLP), were documented in the depth of the littoral cave system of Rosh HaNikra on the northern Mediterranean shore of Israel (33° 5' 35.24" N, 35° 6' 17.16" E), based on light intensity sampled through polarizing filters at different hours of the day on different days of the year. This is the first study to investigate the state of light polarization in such a unique habitat in which photosynthetic organisms, such as cyanobacteria, microalgae, and macroalgae thrive. Such organisms play an essential ecological role as the energy base for the cave's fauna. Using these two methods, we found unique winter polarization characteristics within the cave, including high values of DoLP in the morning and at noon, reaching 50%, and nearly constant AoLP throughout the day. Given the low levels of light intensity that typically exist within the cave in the winter months, the relatively high DoLP and the nearly constant AoLP throughout the day may play a significant role in improving the ability of photosynthetic organisms within the cave to harvest light by orienting their light-harvesting receptors with respect to the AoLP. Using the polarization photograph analysis method, we were able to determine the polarization characteristics originating from the sky, reflection offof (including refraction into followed by refraction out of) the far sea surface, and reflection offof the cave wall separately. The maximum DoLP values originating from the sky, far ocean, and cave walls were found to be 27, 50, and 35%, respectively. The lowest daily variation in AoLP was that of light reflecting offthe cave walls. The present study lays the foundation for any subsequent study of the role of light polarization in the distribution of the algal flora on the cave walls in and out of the water in the Rosh HaNikra cave and in sea caves in general.

Original languageEnglish
Article number192
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Issue numberJUN
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Tzabari, Mayer Mayron, Iluz, Dubinsky and Haspel.


This research was funded by a grant from the State of Israel Ministry of Science, Technology, and Space, Office of Energy and Water, grant number 3-11110. We thank the staffof the Rosh HaNikra National Park for allowing us to perform the research within the caves and for all of their assistance. We thank Amit Lerner for informative conversations on the topic of polarized light in natural environments. We thank Yeela Gundar for revising Figure 1, the map of the Rosh HaNikra mid-littoral cave. We thank Sharon Victor for her help with formatting the manuscript. We thank Gad Weiss for informative conversations on the topic of light harvesting pigments.

FundersFunder number
Office of Energy and Water3-11110
State of Israel Ministry of Science, Technology, and Space
Office of Energy


    • Algae
    • Light
    • Littoral cave
    • Microalgae
    • Polarization
    • Rosh HaNikra


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