Two eyes for two purposes: in situ evidence for asymmetric vision in the cockeyed squids Histioteuthis heteropsis and Stigmatoteuthis dofleini
Kate N. Thomas, Bruce H. Robison, Sönke Johnsen
Published 13 February 2017.DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0069
The light environment of the mesopelagic realm of the ocean changes with both depth and viewer orientation, and this has probably driven the high diversity of visual adaptations found among its inhabitants. The mesopelagic ‘cockeyed’ squids of family Histioteuthidae have unusual eyes, as the left and right eyes are dimorphic in size, shape and sometimes lens pigmentation. This dimorphism may be an adaptation to the two different sources of light in the mesopelagic realm, with the large eye oriented upward to view objects silhouetted against the dim, downwelling sunlight and the small eye oriented slightly downward to view bioluminescent point sources. We used in situ video footage from remotely operated vehicles in the Monterey Submarine Canyon to observe the orientation behaviour of 152 Histioteuthis heteropsis and nine Stigmatoteuthis dofleini. We found evidence for upward orientation in the large eye and slightly downward orientation in the small eye, which was facilitated by a tail-up oblique body orientation. We also found that 65% of adult H. heteropsis (n = 69) had yellow pigmentation in the lens of the larger left eye, which may be used to break the counterillumination camouflage of their prey. Finally, we used visual modelling to show that the visual returns provided by increasing eye size are much higher for an upward-oriented eye than for a downward-oriented eye, which may explain the development of this unique visual strategy.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Vision in dim light’.
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