A new method for mapping spatial resolution in compound eyes suggests two visual streaks in fiddler crabs

Zahra M. Bagheri, Anna Lee Jessop, Susumu Kato, Julian C. Partridge, Jeremy Shaw, Yuri Ogawa, Jan M. Hemmi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Visual systems play a vital role in guiding the behaviour of animals. Understanding the visual information animals are able to acquire is therefore key to understanding their visually mediated decision making. Compound eyes, the dominant eye type in arthropods, are inherently low-resolution structures. Their ability to resolve spatial detail depends on sampling resolution (interommatidial angle) and the quality of ommatidial optics. Current techniques for estimating interommatidial angles are difficult, and generally require in vivo measurements. Here, we present a new method for estimating interommatidial angles based on the detailed analysis of 3D micro-computed tomography images of fixed samples. Using custom-made MATLAB software, we determined the optical axes of individual ommatidia and projected these axes into the 3D space around the animal. The combined viewing directions of all ommatidia, estimated from geometrical optics, allowed us to estimate interommatidial angles and map the animal’s sampling resolution across its entire visual field. The resulting topographic representations of visual acuity match very closely the previously published data obtained from both fiddler and grapsid crabs. However, the new method provides additional detail that was not previously detectable and reveals that fiddler crabs, rather than having a single horizontal visual streak as is common in flat-world inhabitants, probably have two parallel streaks located just above and below the visual horizon. A key advantage of our approach is that it can be used on appropriately preserved specimens, allowing the technique to be applied to animals such as deep-sea crustaceans that are inaccessible or unsuitable for in vivo approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb210195
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Eye map
  • Interommatidial angle
  • Micro-computed tomography
  • Visual ecology
  • Visual resolution


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