A fish whose specially adapted eyes function so well below and above the surface of the water that it can catch flying insects could yield clues to vision throughout the animal kingdom.
Researchers at The University of Western Australia in collaboration with The University of Queensland investigated the ability of the archerfish - famous for spitting jets of water to catch flying insects - to see keenly both below and above the water's surface.
The finding provides insight into the significance of archerfish having intraretinal variability and infers that this same adaptation may be expected among other animals that have to deal with markedly different fields of view.
Using microspectrophotometry, UQ's Dr Shelby Temple and his co-authors found that archerfish have differentially tuned their rods and cones across their retina to suit the spectral differences of seeing in and out of the water.
WA Premier's Research Fellow at the UWA School of Animal Biology Professor Shaun Collin said the findings, recently published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, are important in understanding how the eyes of animals are adapted to different environments.
"If found to be present in many other species, this level of visual plasticity will help explain how teleost fishes have managed to successfully adapt to almost every aquatic environment on earth," said Professor Collin.
"Since the visual environment underwater is so variable and complex with respect to both intensity and spectral composition, the ability to move and negotiate through complex visual scenes would provide a selective advantage. This type of research may ultimately lead to better ways of designing sensors for underwater vehicles to navigate through a range of different light environments."
Note: Photograph by Dr Shelby Temple
Research Associate Professor Nathan Hart (+61 8) 6488 3960
(UWA School of Animal Biology)
Winthrop Professor Shaun Collin (UWA School of Animal Biology) (+61 8) 6488 2632
Janine MacDonald (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 5563 / (+61 4) 32 637 716