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Limulus vision in the ocean day and night: Effects of image size and contrast

  • E. D. Herzog (a1), M. K. Powers (a2) and R. B. Barlow (a1)


Male horseshoe crabs, Limulus polyphemus, use their eyes to locate mates day and night. We investigated their ability to detect targets of different size and contrast in a mating area of Buzzards Bay, Cape Cod, MA. We found that males can see large, high-contrast targets better than small, low-contrast ones. For targets of the same size, animals must be about 0.1 m closer to a low-contrast target to see it as well as a high-contrast one. For targets of the same contrast, animals must be approximately 0.2 m closer to a small target to see it as well as one twice as large. A decrease of 0.05 steradians in the size of the retinal image of a target can be compensated by a four-fold increase in contrast. About 60% of the animals detect black targets subtending 0.110 steradians (equivalent to an adult female viewed from about 0.56 m), while only 20% detect targets subtending 0.039 steradians. This study shows that horseshoe crabs maintain about constant contrast sensitivity under diurnal changes in light intensity in their natural environment. As a consequence of circadian and adaptive mechanisms in the retina, male horseshoe crabs can detect female-size objects about equally well day and night.



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Limulus vision in the ocean day and night: Effects of image size and contrast

  • E. D. Herzog (a1), M. K. Powers (a2) and R. B. Barlow (a1)


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