A Twinkle in Your eye (if you’re a Triplefin!?) – Ocular Sparks & Active Photolocation

Listen to Carl Smith talking with Professor Michiels engaging his inner monk at STARESO to work on fish visual systems (including triplefin’s spherical eye lens) and their generation and use of red fluorescence emitted from their eyes. He and his co-researchers also discovered unexpected bright “ocular” (or eye) sparks that the triplefins could switch on and off at will for underwater ‘active photolocation’. The ABC Schience Show podcast and transcript can be found here.

Professor Michiels used opaque plastic “hats” on triplefins, a type of bottom dwelling camouflaged dull-brown coloured (or cryptobenthic) fish, to prevent ocular sparks illuminating their surrounds and potential scorpionfish predators. Transparent hats on triplefins were also used as a control. The research to confirm the theory continues although early research suggests the theory has legs (or fins). It will continue to enable a more certain conclusion although one issue appears to be that scorpionfish ‘dislike’ wearing hats! This makes it harder to confirm that the triplefins are using ocular spark reflections from scorpionfish eyes to detect predators. If the theory is confirmed though it will lead to more species being tested.

Read a related Nature paper here