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The ontogenic development of refracting superposition eyes in crustaceans: transformation of optical design

  • Dan-E Nilsson
  • Eric Hallberg
  • Rolf Elofsson
Publishing year: 1986
Language: English
Pages: 509-519
Publication/Series: Cell and Tissue Research
Volume: 18
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Springer

Abstract english

We have investigated, comparatively, the ontogenetic development of the compound eye in larvae of a mysid (Neomysis) and a euphausiid (Thysanoessa) species and found it to be close to identical in the two species. The larval eye is of apposition type with special adaptations for planktonic life. The elongated dioptric apparatus is devoid of screening pigment and instead has a proximal lens optically isolating the ommatidium. The pigmented retina is extremely compressed making the eye largely transparent and presumably suitable for a planktonic life. The presence of this specialized type of eye in the planktonic larvae of euphausiids was known before but it is intriguing to find exactly the same type in mysids, spending their entire larval life as embryos in the female marsupium. A possible explanation is offered if mysids earlier in evolution had planktonic larvae. Upon reduction of free-living larvae, the transparent type of eye may have been preserved because there is no selection pressure on the larva to change it. In late larval life, both species transform their eyes to a refracting superposition type typical for adult mysids and euphausiids. The process of transformation and the functional connection between transparent apposition and superposition is described.


  • Zoology
  • Ontogeny
  • compound eye
  • Crustacea
  • plankton
  • ommatidium


  • Lund Vision Group
  • ISSN: 1432-0878
Eric Hallberg
E-mail: eric [dot] hallberg [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Professor emeritus

Functional zoology

+46 46 222 46 78