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Seeing in the deep

Vision and visual processing in deep-sea animals

The deep sea is the largest habitat on earth. Its three great faunal environments – the twilight mesopelagic zone, the dark bathypelagic zone and the vast flat expanses of the benthic habitat – are home to a rich fauna of vertebrates and invertebrates. These animals experience a visual scene that changes drastically with depth – from extended scenes illuminated by the down-welling daylight in the upper layers of the ocean to scenes dominated by point source bioluminescence in the deep. This has had a profound effect on the designs of deep-sea eyes, both optically and neurally, and this has led to the evolution of a great diversity of visual adaptations in deep-sea animals. By using portable electrophysiological and optical methods at sea, we are attempting to understand how well deep-sea fishes and cephalopods (squids and octopuses) are able to see. Some of the questions we are currently pursuing include:

1. How fast do deep-sea animals see? Eric Warrant

2. How much information can deep-sea eyes provide their owners, and how is this related to lifestyle and habitat depth? Dan-Eric Nilsson and Eric Warrant

3. How is vision optimised in fast deep-diving pelagic predators? Eric Warrant

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Page Manager: Eva Landgren
Webmaster: Michael Sellers
Publisher: Department of Biology 

Last modified 2 Jul 2013

All pictures on this page: Courtesy of Sönke Johnsen

Scientists involved
Lund University, Box 117, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden. Tel: +46 (0)46 222 00 00