Convergence of specialised behaviour, eye movements and visual optics in the sandlance (Teleostei) and the chameleon (Reptilia)

  • Pettigrew J
  • Collin S
  • Ott M
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Chameleons have a number of unusual, highly specialised visual features, including telescopic visual optics with a reduced lens power, wide separation of the eye's nodal point from the axis of rotation, a deep-pit fovea, rapid pre-calculated strikes for prey based on monocular depth judgements (including focus), and a complex pattern of partially independent alternating eye movements. The same set of features has been acquired independently by a teleost, the sandlance Limnichthyes fasciatus. Despite its underwater lifestyle, this fish displays visual behaviour and rapid strikes for prey that are remarkably similar to those of the chameleon [1]. In a direct comparison of the two species, we have revealed other, previously unsuspected, similarities, such as corneal accommodation, which was unknown in teleosts, as well as bringing together, for the first time, data collected from both species. The sandlance is the only teleost, among thousands studied, that has corneal refraction, corneal accommodation and reduced lens power, as well as sharing the other specialised optical features seen in chameleons. The independent eye movement pattern in the sandlance is also unusual and similar to that of the chameleon. The selection pressures that have produced this remarkable example of convergence may relate to common visual constraints in the life styles of these two phylogenetically disparate species.

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  • John D. Pettigrew

  • Shaun P. Collin

  • Matthias Ott

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