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The eyes of scallops form images using a concave spherical mirror and contain two separate retinas, one layered on top of the other. Behavioral and electrophysiological studies indicate that the images formed by these eyes have angular resolutions of about 28. Based on previous ray-tracing models, it has been thought that the more distal of the two retinas lies near the focal point of the mirror and that the proximal retina, positioned closer to the mirror at the back of the eye, receives light that is out-of-focus. Here, we propose three mechanisms through which both retinas may receive focused light: (1) chromatic aberration produced by the lens may cause the focal points for longer and shorter wavelengths to fall near the distal and proximal retinas, respectively; (2) focused light from near and far objects may fall on the distal and proximal retinas, respectively; and (3) the eyes of scallops may be dynamic structures that change shape to determine which retina receives focused light. To test our hypotheses, we used optical coherence tomography (OCT), a method of near-infrared optical depth-ranging, to acquire virtual cross-sections of live, intact eyes from the bay scallop Argopecten irradians. Next, we used a custom-built ray-tracing model to estimate the qualities of the images that fall on an eye’s distal and proximal retinas as functions of the wavelengths of light entering the eye (400–700 nm), object distances (0.01–1 m), and the overall shape of the eye. When we assume 550 nm wavelength light and object distances greater than 0.01 m, our model predicts that the angular resolutions of the distal and proximal retinas are 28 and 78, respectively. Our model also predicts that neither chromatic aberration nor differences in object distance lead to focused light falling on the distal and proximal retinas simultaneously. However, if scallops can manipulate the shapes of their eyes, perhaps through muscle contractions, we speculate that they may be able to influence the qualities of the images that fall on their proximal retinas and—to a lesser extent—those that fall on their distal retinas as well.

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Speiser, D. I., Gagnon, Y. L., Chhetri, R. K., Oldenburg, A. L., & Johnsen, S. (2016). Examining the effects of chromatic aberration, object distance, and eye shape on image-formation in the mirror-based eyes of the bay scallopargopecten irradians. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 56(5), 796–808.


©The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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