Visual perception of light organ patterns in deep-sea shrimps and implications for conspecific recognition.
Darkness and low biomass make it challenging for animals to find and identify one another in the deep sea. While spatiotemporal variation in bioluminescence is thought to underlie mate recognition for some species, its role in conspecific recognition remains unclear. The deep-sea shrimp genus, Sergestes sensu lato (s.l.), is one group that is characterized by species-specific variation in light organ arrangement, providing us the opportunity to test whether organ variation permits recognition to the species level. To test this, we analyzed the visual capabilities of three species of Sergestes s.l. in order to (a) test for sexual dimorphism in eye-to-body size scaling relationships, (b) model the visual ranges (i.e., sighting distances) over which these shrimps can detect intraspecific bioluminescence, and (c) assess the maximum possible spatial resolution of the eyes of these shrimps to estimate their capacity to distinguish the light organs of each species. Our results showed that relative eye size scaled negatively with body length across species and without sexual dimorphism. Though the three species appear capable of detecting one another's bioluminescence over distances ranging from < 1 to ~6 m, their limited spatial resolution suggests they cannot resolve light organ variation for the purpose of conspecific recognition. Our findings point to factors other than conspecific recognition (e.g., neutral drift, phenotypic constraint) that have led to the extensive diversification of light organs in Sergestes s.l and impart caution about interpreting ecological significance of visual characters based on the resolution of human vision. This work provides new insight into deep-sea animal interaction, supporting the idea that-at least for these mesopelagic shrimps-nonvisual signals may be required for conspecific recognition.
Schweikert, LE; Davis, AL; Johnsen, S; Bracken-Grissom, HD
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