Surf and turf vision: Patterns and predictors of visual acuity in compound eye evolution

Kathryn D. Feller, Camilla R. Sharkey, Alyssa McDuffee-Altekruse, Heather D. Bracken-Grissom, Nathan P. Lord, Megan L. Porter, Lorian E. Schweikert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Eyes have the flexibility to evolve to meet the ecological demands of their users. Relative to camera-type eyes, the fundamental limits of optical diffraction in arthropod compound eyes restrict the ability to resolve fine detail (visual acuity) to much lower degrees. We tested the capacity of several ecological factors to predict arthropod visual acuity, while simultaneously controlling for shared phylogenetic history. In this study, we have generated the most comprehensive review of compound eye visual acuity measurements to date, containing 385 species that span six of the major arthropod classes. An arthropod phylogeny, made custom to this database, was used to develop a phylogenetically-corrected generalized least squares (PGLS) linear model to evaluate four ecological factors predicted to underlie compound eye visual acuity: environmental light intensity, foraging strategy (predator vs. non-predator), horizontal structure of the visual scene, and environmental medium (air vs. water). To account for optical constraints on acuity related to animal size, body length was also included, but this did not show a significant effect in any of our models. Rather, the PGLS analysis revealed that the strongest predictors of compound eye acuity are described by a combination of environmental medium, foraging strategy, and environmental light intensity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101002
JournalArthropod Structure and Development
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors


  • Arthropod phylogeny
  • Crustacea
  • Hexapoda
  • Light
  • Sensory ecology
  • Spatial resolution


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