Hiding opaque eyes in transparent organisms: A potential role for larval eyeshine in stomatopod crustaceans

K. D. Feller, T. W. Cronin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Opaque screening pigments are a fundamental requisite for preserving resolution in image-forming eyes. Possession of any type of image-forming eye in a transparent, pelagic animal will thus undermine the ability of that animal to be invisible in the water column. Transparent, pelagic animals must therefore deal with the trade-off between the ability to see and the ability of other animals to see them. Stomatopod larvae, like many transparent crustaceans, possess specialized optics in their compound eyes that minimize the volume of the opaque retina. Though the volumes of these retinas are reduced, their opacity remains conspicuous to an observer. The light reflected from structures overlying the retinas of stomatopod crustacean larval eyes, referred to here as eyeshine, is hypothesized to further reduce the visibility of opaque retinas. Blue or green wavelengths of light are most strongly reflected in stomatopod larval eyeshine, suggesting a putative spectral matching to the light environment against which the larval eyes are viewed. We tested the efficacy of stomatopod crustacean larval eyeshine as an ocular camouflaging mechanism by photographing larvae in their natural light environment and analysing the contrast of eyes with the background light. To test for spectral matching between stomatopod larval eyeshine and the background light environment, we characterized the spectrum of eyeshine and calculated its performance using radiometric measurements collected at the time of each photographic series. These results are the first to demonstrate an operative mirror camouflage matched in both spectrum and radiance to the pelagic background light environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3263-3273
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


  • Camouflage
  • Larva
  • Stomatopod
  • Visual ecology


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