Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures

Light and Vision in the Deep-Sea Benthos

Event Name/Location

International Conference on Invertebrate Vision, Backaskog Castle, Sweden, August 1-8, 2013

Presentation Date


Document Type

Conference Proceeding




Deep-sea, Uv-vision, Bioluminiescence, Temporal resolution, Crustaceans


Using new collecting techniques with the Johnson-Sea-Link submersible, eight species of deep-sea benthic crustaceans were collected with intact visual systems. Their spectral sensitivities and temporal resolutions were determined shipboard using electroretinography. Useable spectral sensitivity data were obtained from seven species, and in the dark-adapted eyes, the spectral sensitivity peaks were in the blue region of the visible spectrum, ranging from 470 to 497 nm. Under blue chromatic adaptation, a secondary sensitivity peak in the UV portion of the spectrum appeared for two species of anomuran crabs: Eumunida picta (lambda max = 363 nm) and Gastroptychus spinifer (lambda max = 383 nm). Wavelength-specific differences in response waveforms under blue chromatic adaptation in these two species suggest that two populations of photoreceptor cells are present. Temporal resolution was determined in all eight species using the maximum critical flicker frequency (CFFmax). The CFFmax for the isopod Booralana tricarinata of 4 Hz proved to be the lowest ever measured using this technique, and suggests that this species is not able to track even slow-moving prey. Both the putative dual visual pigment system in the crabs and the extremely slow eye of the isopod may be adaptations for seeing bioluminescence in the deep-sea benthic environment, which spectral measurements and in situ video showed to be a combination of greener bioluminescence from sessile benthic species superimposed with bluer bioluminescence emitted by planktonic organisms as they impacted the habitat.