Extraocular photoreception, the ability to detect and respond to light outside of the eye, has not been previously described in deep-sea invertebrates. Here, we investigate photosensitivity in the bioluminescent light organs (photophores) of deep-sea shrimp, an autogenic system in which the organism possesses the substrates and enzymes to produce light. Through the integration of transcriptomics, in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry we find evidence for the expression of opsins and phototransduction genes known to play a role in light detection in most animals. Subsequent shipboard light exposure experiments showed ultrastructural changes in the photophore similar to those seen in crustacean eyes, providing further evidence that photophores are light sensitive. In many deep-sea species, it has long been documented that photophores emit light to aid in counterillumination – a dynamic form of camouflage that requires adjusting the organ’s light intensity to “hide” their silhouettes from predators below. However, it remains a mystery how animals fine-tune their photophore luminescence to match the intensity of downwelling light. Photophore photosensitivity allows us to reconsider the organ’s role in counterillumination - not only in light emission but also light detection and regulation.
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Heather D. Bracken-Grissom, Danielle M. DeLeo, Megan L. Porter, Tom Iwanicki, Jamie E. Sickles, and Tamara Frank. 2020. Light Organ Photosensitivity in Deep-Sea Shrimp May Suggest a Novel Role in Counterillumination .Scientific Reports , (4485) : 1 -10. https://nsuworks.nova.edu/occ_facarticles/1070.