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The ocean's midwater is a uniquely challenging yet predictable and simple visual environment. The need to see without being seen in this dim, open habitat has led to extraordinary visual adaptations. To understand these adaptations, we compared the morphological and functional differences between the eyes of three hyperiid amphipods-Hyperia galba, Streetsia challengeri and Phronima sedentaria. Combining micro-CT data with computational modelling, we mapped visual field topography and predicted detection distances for visual targets viewed in different directions through mesopelagic depths. Hyperia's eyes provide a wide visual field optimized for spatial vision over short distances, while Phronima's and Streetsia's eyes have the potential to achieve greater sensitivity and longer detection distances using spatial summation. These improvements come at the cost of smaller visual fields, but this loss is compensated for by a second pair of eyes in Phronima and by behaviour in Streetsia. The need to improve sensitivity while minimizing visible eye size to maintain crypsis has likely driven the evolution of hyperiid eye diversity. Our results provide an integrative look at how these elusive animals have adapted to the unique visual challenges of the mesopelagic.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Biol Sci

Publication Date





low light vision, midwater adaptations, retinal topography, spatial summation, visual field, Animals, Amphipoda, Ecosystem, Visual Fields, Eye, Vision, Ocular, X-Ray Microtomography