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Bugs with Bifocals: New Insight into Complex Insect Eyesight

First Posted: Nov 04, 2015 05:42 PM EST
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Scientists may be learning a bit more about bug eyesight. Researchers have examined how the complex eye system of the Sunburst Diving Beetle coordinates the development of its components.

In this latest study, the researchers focused on eye growth during the larval stages of the Sunburst Diving Beetle, which lives in creeks and streams around the western United States. In its larval form, the beetle grows very quickly through three stages of development.

"Because the lens needs to correctly focus images into the eye for both close vision and distance, the lens also has to be changing during this rapid eye growth," said Elke Buschbeck, one of the researchers, in a news release.

During this transformation, the eye tubes grow dramatically, making the lens temporarily dysfunctional, impairing sight of the larvae. Then, the lens reforms relatively quickly and vision is sharpened again in a period of around eight hours.

The researchers examined eye morphology and optics around molt times, as the different stages of larvae shed and entered a new stage of development. In order to find correct developmental stages, the larvae were monitored on video.

"We were intrigued that all major changes in eye tube length already had taken place at our first sampling point, which was taken within 60 minutes of molting," write the researchers. "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. The lenses transformed more slowly during this period, affecting sight, but were back to being able to produce sharp, bifocal images within eight hours."

The findings are published in the Journal of Comparative Physiology A.

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