Specialization of retinal function in the compound eyes of mantis shrimps

Cronin Thomas W., N. Justin Marshall, Roy L. Caldwell, Nadav Shashar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Visual function and its specialization at the level of the retina were studied in 13 species of stomatopod crustaceans, representing three superfamilies: Gonodactyloidea, Lysiosquilloidea, and Squilloidea. We measured attenuation and irradiance spectra in the environment of each species, at the actual depths and times of activity where we observed individuals. We also characterized die intrarhabdomal niters of all study species and determined the absolute spectral sensitivity functions and approximate photon capture rates of all photoreceptor classes below the level of the 8th retinular cell in seven of these species. Shallow-water gonodactyloid species have four distinct classes of intrarhabdomal filters, producing photoreceptors that are relatively insensitive but which have the broadest spectral coverage of all. Deep-water gonodactyloids and all lysiosquilloids have filters that are spectrally less diverse. These species often discard the proximal filter classes of one or more receptor types. As a result, their retinas are more sensitive but have reduced spectral range or diversity. The single squilloid species has the most sensitive photoreceptors of any we observed, due to the lack both of intrarhabdomal filters and tiered photoreceptors. Photon absorption rates, at the times of animal activity, were similar in most photoreceptor classes of all species, whether the receptors were tiered or untiered, or filtered or unfiltered. Thus, the retinas of stomatopods are specialized to operate at similar levels of stimulation at the times and depths of actual use, while evidently maintaining the greatest possible potential for spectral coverage and discrimination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2639-2656
Number of pages18
JournalVision Research
Issue number20
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Color vision
  • Spectral sensitivity
  • Stomatopoda
  • Visual ecology
  • Visual evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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