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Beetles Have Complex Rapidly Developing Vision System, Say Researchers

Nov 05, 2015 03:59 PM EST
Some insects have very complex visual systems that allow them to see the world very differently than humans do.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons )

Some insects have very complex visual systems that allow them to see the world very differently than humans see it. To get a better sense of how the invertebrates develop such intricate eyes, researchers from the University of Cincinnati (UC) took a closer look at the eye morphology of Sunburst Diving Beetles who posses a bifocal lens that allows them to focus easily

Sunburst Diving Beetles live primaril in creeks and streams around Arizona and the Western U.S. In its larval form, the beetles grow very quickly over the course of three distinct stages. As the molt – the time during which larvae shed and enter a new stage of development – they are temporarily blinded

"What was significant about our findings was how rapidly the eye with the bifocal transitions into a new size," Elke Buschbeck, a UC professor of biological sciences, explained in the release. "It grows so fast that after molting, as soon as we can measure it, it has already grown."

Essentially, the bugs go blind temporarily because as they develop new bifocal lens that can bring the world into focus. Specifically, their eye tubes grow dramatically during their larvae stages. To record the process as it occured, researchers set up round-the-clock video of the incubator in which the beetles were housed. Florescent light simulated "daylight" and infrared LED lights were monitor the development in the dark. 

After all that, researchers discovered that the most dramatic growth of a beetle's eye tube occurred between the second and third larval stage.

"This rapid eye expansion suggests a certain level of pre-determined eye growth, but specific adjustments also could be made at the level of the lens, which takes longer to reform," researchers added in the release. 

Buschbeck is interested in studying what other factors, such as osmosis, play a role in the beetle rapid eye development. Their findings, recently published in the Journal of Comparative Physiology A, also have implications outside of invertebrate physiology. 

"Studying the invertebrate mechanism, we can learn more on the basic principles which apply beyond invertebrates," Buschbeck said in a statement

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