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The giant eyes of giant squid are indeed unexpectedly large, but not if used for spotting sperm whales

  • Dan-E Nilsson
  • Eric Warrant
  • Soenke Johnsen
  • Roger T. Hanlon
  • Nadav Shashar
Publishing year: 2013
Language: English
Publication/Series: BMC Evolutionary Biology
Volume: 13
Document type: Journal article (letter)
Publisher: BioMed Central

Abstract english

Background: We recently reported (Curr Biol 22:683-688, 2012) that the eyes of giant and colossal squid can grow to three times the diameter of the eyes of any other animal, including large fishes and whales. As an explanation to this extreme absolute eye size, we developed a theory for visual performance in aquatic habitats, leading to the conclusion that the huge eyes of giant and colossal squid are uniquely suited for detection of sperm whales, which are important squid-predators in the depths where these squid live. A paper in this journal by Schmitz et al. (BMC Evol Biol 13:45, 2013) refutes our conclusions on the basis of two claims: (1) using allometric data they argue that the eyes of giant and colossal squid are not unexpectedly large for the size of the squid, and (2) a revision of the values used for modelling indicates that large eyes are not better for detection of approaching sperm whales than they are for any other task. Results and conclusions: We agree with Schmitz et al. that their revised values for intensity and abundance of planktonic bioluminescence may be more realistic, or at least more appropriately conservative, but argue that their conclusions are incorrect because they have not considered some of the main arguments put forward in our paper. We also present new modelling to demonstrate that our conclusions remain robust, even with the revised input values suggested by Schmitz et al.


  • Zoology
  • Vision
  • Eyes
  • Giant squid
  • Sperm whale
  • Bioluminescence
  • Mesopelagic


  • ISSN: 1471-2148
Dan-E Nilsson
E-mail: dan-e [dot] nilsson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Functional zoology

+46 46 222 93 45

+46 70 623 10 64



Research group

Lund Vision Group


Doctoral students and postdocs

Phd Students, main supervisor


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