Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Spookfish Uses Mirrors For Eyes

Date:
January 8, 2009
Source:
University of Bristol
Summary:
A remarkable new discovery shows the four-eyed spookfish to be the first vertebrate ever found to use mirrors, rather than lenses, to focus light in its eyes.

View of the Spookfish's upward pointing portion of the eye, showing a yellow-orange shine because light from the camera's flash bounced off the reflective layer behind the retina.
Credit: Florida Atlantic University

A remarkable new discovery shows the four-eyed spookfish to be the first vertebrate ever found to use mirrors, rather than lenses, to focus light in its eyes.

Related Articles


Professor Julian Partridge from the University of Bristol, said: “In nearly 500 million years of vertebrate evolution, and many thousands of vertebrate species living and dead, this is the only one known to have solved the fundamental optical problem faced by all eyes – how to make an image – using a mirror.”

While the spook fish looks like it has four eyes, in fact it only has two, each of which is split into two connected parts. One half points upwards, giving the spookfish a view of the ocean – and potential food – above. The other half, which looks like a bump on the side of the fish’s head, points downwards into the abyss below. These ‘diverticular’ eyes are unique among all vertebrates in that they use a mirror to make the image.

Very little light penetrates beneath about 1000m of water and like many other deep-sea fish the spookfish is adapted to make the most of what little light there is. At these depths it is flashes of bioluminescent light from other animals that the spookfish are largely looking for. The diverticular eyes image these flashes, warning the spookfish of other animals that are active, and otherwise unseen, below its vulnerable belly.

Although the spookfish was first discovered 120 years ago, no one had discovered its reflective eyes until now because a live animal had never been caught. When Professor Hans-Joachim Wagner from Tuebingen University caught a live specimen off the Pacific island of Tonga, members of his research team used flash photography to confirm the fish’s upward and downward gazes.

Photographs taken by Dr Tammy Frank looking down on the live fish produced eye-shine in the main tubular eyes that point upwards, but not in the diverticular eyes that point downward. Instead, these reflect light when seen from below.

It was when looking at sections of the eye that had been prepared for microscopy that Professor Partridge realised that the diverticular mirrors where something exciting. The mirror uses tiny plates, probably of guanine crystals, arranged into a multi-layer stack. This is not unique in the animal kingdom (it’s why silvery fish are silvery) but the arrangement and orientation of the guanine crystals is precisely controlled such that they direct the light to a focus. Partridge’s computer simulation showed that the precise orientation of the plates within the mirror's curved surface is perfect for focusing reflected light onto the fish’s retina.

The use of a single mirror has a distinct advantage over a lens in its potential to produce bright, high-contrast images. That must give the fish a great advantage in the deep sea, where the ability to spot even the dimmest and briefest of lights can mean the difference between eating and being eaten.

The research will be published this month in Current Biology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bristol. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Bristol. "Spookfish Uses Mirrors For Eyes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 January 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090107134539.htm>.
University of Bristol. (2009, January 8). Spookfish Uses Mirrors For Eyes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090107134539.htm
University of Bristol. "Spookfish Uses Mirrors For Eyes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090107134539.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins