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The image-forming mirror in the eye of the scallop

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Science  01 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6367, pp. 1172-1175
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9506

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Fine-tuned for image formation

We typically think of eyes as having one or more lenses for focusing incoming light onto a surface such as our retina. However, light can also be focused using arrays of mirrors, as is commonly done in telescopes. A biological example of this is the scallop, which can have up to 200 reflecting eyes that focus light onto two retinas. Palmer et al. find that spatial vision in the scallop is achieved through precise control of the size, shape, and packing density of the tiles of guanine that together make up an image-forming mirror at the back of each of the eyes.

Science, this issue p. 1172

Abstract

Scallops possess a visual system comprising up to 200 eyes, each containing a concave mirror rather than a lens to focus light. The hierarchical organization of the multilayered mirror is controlled for image formation, from the component guanine crystals at the nanoscale to the complex three-dimensional morphology at the millimeter level. The layered structure of the mirror is tuned to reflect the wavelengths of light penetrating the scallop’s habitat and is tiled with a mosaic of square guanine crystals, which reduces optical aberrations. The mirror forms images on a double-layered retina used for separately imaging the peripheral and central fields of view. The tiled, off-axis mirror of the scallop eye bears a striking resemblance to the segmented mirrors of reflecting telescopes.

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