Spectral sensitivity of vision and bioluminescence in the midwater shrimp Sergestes similis

S. M. Lindsay, T. M. Frank, J. Kent, J. C. Partridge, M. I. Latz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


In the oceanic midwater environment, many fish, squid, and shrimp use luminescent countershading to remain cryptic to silhouette-scanning predators. The midwater penaeid shrimp, Sergestes similis Hansen, responds to downward-directed light with a dim bioluminescence that dynamically matches the spectral radiance of oceanic downwelling light at depth. Although the sensory basis of luminescent countershading behavior is visual, the relationship between visual and behavioral sensitivity is poorly understood. In this study, visual spectral sensitivity, based on microspectrophotometry and electrophysiological measurements of photoreceptor response, is directly compared to the behavioral spectral efficiency of luminescent countershading. Microspectrophotometric measurements on single photoreceptors revealed only a single visual pigment with peak absorbance at 495 nm in the blue-green region of the spectrum. The peak electrophysiological spectral sensitivity of dark-adapted eyes was centered at about 500 nm. The spectral efficiency of luminescent countershading showed a broad peak from 480 to 520 nm. Both electrophysiological and behavioral data closely matched the normalized spectral absorptance curve of a rhodopsin with λ(max) = 495 nm, when rhabdom length and photopigment specific absorbance were considered. The close coupling between visual spectral sensitivity and the spectral efficiency of luminescent countershading attests to the importance of bioluminescence as a camouflage strategy in this species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-360
Number of pages13
JournalBiological Bulletin
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999
Externally publishedYes


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