27 September 2010

Look at these eyes...

"...the complex eyes of the peacock mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) perceive more colours than you can imagine."
The comment probably refers to the fact that these creatures can see ultraviolet and infrared.  Awesome.  (I wonder if that is why at least this one seems to have asymmetric eyes and curious stomata in the globe?)

Found at Electric Orchids.


  1. I read a science fiction story about these creatures. It was quite interesting. Too bad I can't remember the title or the author's name.

  2. I just watched "Oceans" and there's a great fight scene between one of these guys and a crab of some kind.

    His eyes aren't actually asymmetrical all the time, but they do seem to move (and focus?) independently. The black spots that are currently showing up on his right eye actually move all across both eyes. It's crazy! It looked like an etch a sketch or something to watch the way it moved.

  3. A few years ago, I read an article about an eye implant that was promising in the arena of giving sight to the blind. An interesting side effect was that, because the sensors could be tuned, there was the possibility of allowing people to see a new color between blue and green.

    Needless to say, I was fascinated.

    Now this - I'll ask one of the optical scientists I know about it, and see what he says.

  4. explanation of the black spots / asymetry

    Think of a compound eye as being constructed somewhatlike a honeycomb. Each "chamber" has pigmented walls on all sides except for the front and back. The walls ensure that each "chamber" only recieves light that comes straight in.
    If you are looking at one of these chambers on an angle you see the walls of the chamber, and the eye looks colored. If you look directly into a chamber you see through into the receptor part of the eye itself, which is black as it's purpose is to absorb light.

    You can see this effect on some insects like mantids, dragonflies, and many others. There's probably a good reason you don't see it on flies or most other insects for that matter, but I don't know it.

  5. Interesting, linty. I just tried to find a scanning EM of the mantis shrimp eye, but haven't been successful so far.

    Thank you.

  6. One of the neat things about this effect (and if I explained it well, it'll make sense) is that the parts that appear black would be the parts that are looking directly into the viewer's eyes or the camera's lens. You can get a sense of what portion of the eyes are able to see you right now.

    The spots will move as the viewer or shrimp moves, giving the appearance that the black parts are pupils that are following you. This is an illusion, and would work just as well on a recently dead animal well.

    I noticed another really strange eye effect on an owl butterfly last year. My video isn't very good but it gets the point across. No idea what the explanation for the effect is but it is visible with the naked eye as well as through a camera

  7. oops, link

  8. Linty, I haven't been able to get your video to load/play despite a couple tries. The fault may lie in my browser or Flash player

  9. I'd post it to youtube but I lost the original a while back. It's pretty neat though.
    On my work computer it takes a few minutes to start playing (or show anything at all), maybe you're in the same boat?

  10. I've waited ~10 minutes a couple times. But if it loads on your computer it's not a corrupted file. Almost surely a problem with my Flash player or my security walls.

    But thank you for the info. It sounds like an interesting video.

  11. Linty, I updated both my Firefox and my Flash today, and was finally able to watch your video. Quite interesting. Thanx.

  12. Aahh, I see my brother has finally made an appearance


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