Terrestrial optics in an aquatic eye: the sandlance, Limnichthyes fasciatus (Creediidae, Teleostei)

Shaun Patrick Collin, J.D. Pettigrew

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    The sandlance, Limnichthyes fasciatus (Creediidae, Teleostei), behaves like a marine chameleon, with independent movements of its turret-like eyes, highly-effective camouflage and rapid strikes for isolated, mobile prey at close quarters. The optical system has a fixed circular pupil, a deep pit fovea and a flattened lens unlike any other teleost lens so far described. The convex, laminated structure of the cornea is also unparalleled in a teleost which suggests that the cornea may play a refractive role that might compensate for the reduced power of the flattened lens. This suggestion has been supported in the present investigation by four independent sets of observations:- i. Purkinje images formed underwater by the cornea; ii. Measurements of the magnification of intra-corneal iridophores viewed through the corneal lenticle; iii. Measurements of the magnification produced by the dissected corneal lenticle and lens when viewed over a grating; iv. Ray tracing experiments comparing the degree of refraction produced by the lens and by the corneal lenticle. All experimental observations confirm that the cornea of the sandlance has a significant refractive role, with a power of approximately 200 D compared with a power of 550 D for the lens. This is the first report of a significant refractive role played by the cornea in a teleost. The optical system of lens plus cornea, in combination with a deep pit fovea, may be
    more suitable for the detection and visual localisation of small, moving, underwater prey than the conventional wide-field spherical lens system of other teleosts. The evolutionary convergence of this marine optical system and lifestyle with those of the chameleon is remarkable, given the constraints imposed by underwater optics.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)397-408
    JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A
    Publication statusPublished - 1995


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