A new method for mapping spatial resolution in compound eyes suggests two visual streaks in fiddler crabs

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Visual systems play a vital role in guiding the behaviour of animals. Understanding the visual information animals are able to acquire is therefore key to understanding their visually-mediated decision making. Compound eyes, the dominant eye type in arthropods, are inherently low-resolution structures. Their ability to resolve spatial detail depends on sampling resolution (interommatidial angle) and the quality of ommatidial optics. Current techniques for estimating interommatidial angles are difficult, and generally require in vivo measurements. Here, we present a new method for estimating interommatidial angles based on the detailed analysis of 3D Micro-CT images of fixed samples. Using custom-made MATLAB software we determine the optical axes of individual ommatidia and project these axes into the three-dimensional space around the animal. The combined viewing directions of all ommatidia, estimated from geometrical optics, allow us to estimate interommatidial angles and map the animal's sampling resolution across its entire visual field. The resulting topographic representations of visual acuity match very closely the previously published data obtained from both fiddler and grapsid crabs. However, the new method provides additional detail that was not previously detectable and reveals that fiddler crabs, rather than having a single horizontal visual streak as is common in flat world inhabitants, likely have two parallel streaks located just above and below the visual horizon. A key advantage of our approach is that it can be used on appropriately preserved specimens allowing the technique to be applied to animals such as deep-sea crustaceans that are inaccessible or unsuitable for in vivo approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Article number jeb210195
JournalThe Journal of Experimental Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2020


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