Scallops Have 200 Eyes Which Work Like A Telescope

Posted: Dec 1 2017, 2:24pm CST | by , Updated: Dec 1 2017, 2:26pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Scallops have 200 Eyes Which Work Like a Telescope
Credit: Ceri Jones, Haven Diving Services

The complex system could pave the way to the construction of gigantic space telescopes

Sea creatures usually have unique eyes, but scallops appear to have weirdest visual system of all animals. The simple little mollusk has up to 200 eyes and these eyes work on the same principle as telescope.

It was already known that scallops are unique in having concave mirrors at the back of their eyes. They see by reflecting light off these concave mirrors onto the retina above. This has not been found in other animals it is also the reason why researchers wanted to gain more insight into the inner workings of their visual system.

By using a sophisticated telescope that rapidly freezes the sample and enables it to retain its shape, researchers have finally obtained a detailed view of a scallop's visual system. Images reveal that system consists of tiny mirrors and crystals that are carefully arranged inside scallops' small eyes and these mirrors are made from guanine. Just like telescope mirrors, each mirror reflects wavelengths of light in their habitat and give them a spatial view of their surroundings. The spatial vision in the scallop is controlled through mirror's layered structure.

Most other animals use lenses to focus incoming light instead of mirrors.

“The mirror forms images on a double-layered retina used for separately imaging the peripheral and central fields of view. The tiled, off-axis mirror of the scallop eye bears a striking resemblance to the segmented mirrors of reflecting telescopes.” Authors wrote in the study.

Researchers suggest that a process in brain combines those images taken from hundreds of scallop’s eyes and convert them into a single, clearer image.

"The entire mirror construction is well adapted to the environment where scallops live. Their eye vision is considerably better than the vision found in other bivalves with other types of eyes." Co-researcher Gavin Taylor from Department of Biology at Lund University said.

The study is the first to capture the mosaic view of tiny mirrors and crystals inside scallop’s eyes. The complex visual system of scallops could inspire the design of large telescopes that look in deep space and observe distant objects.

"Our results can help to develop miniature cameras to be used in water," said Taylor. "There is also a growing interest in cameras like that for use in robotics and biomedical applications. It probably won’t be long until applications like these are inspired by the scallops’ eyes."

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