46 Scopus citations


The bresiliid shrimp, Rimicaris exoculata, lives in large masses on the sides of hydrothermal vent chimneys at two sites on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Although essentially no daylight penetrates to depths of 3500 m, very dim light is emitted from the hydrothermal vents themselves. To exploit this light, R. exoculata has evolved a modified compound eye on its dorsal surface that occupies about 0.5% of the animal's body volume. The eye's morphology suggests that it is extremely sensitive to light. The cornea of the dorsal eye is smooth with no dioptric apparatus. The retina consists of two wing-shaped lobes that are fused across the midline anteriorly. The rhabdomeral segments of the 7000 ommatidia form a compact layer of photosensitive membrane with an entrance aperture of more than 26 mm2. Within this layer, the volume density of rhabdom is more than 70%. Below the rhabdomeral segments, a thick layer of white diffusing cells scatters light upward into the photoreceptors. The arhabdomeral segments of the five to seven photoreceptors of each ommatidium are mere strands of cytoplasm that expand to accommodate the photoreceptor nuclei. The rhabdom is comprised of well-organized arrays of microvilli, each with a cytoskeletal core. The rhabdomeral segment cytoplasm contains mitochondria, but little else. The perikaryon contains a band of mitochondria, but has only small amounts of endoplasmic reticulum. There is no ultrastructural indication of photosensitive membrane cycling in these photoreceptors. Vestigial screening pigment cells and screening pigment granules within the photoreceptors are both restricted to the inner surface of the layer of the white diffusing cells. Below the retina, photoreceptor axons converge in a fan-shaped array to enter the dorsal surface of the brain. The eye's size and structure are consistent with a role for vision in shrimp living at abyssal hydrothermal vents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-875
Number of pages15
JournalVisual Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1995


  • Bresiliid shrimp
  • DSV Alvin
  • Deep sea vision
  • Invertebrate photoreceptors
  • Mid-Atlantic Ridge


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