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The Limulus-eye view of the world

  • Erik D. Herzog (a1) and Robert B. Barlow (a1) (a2)


The compound lateral eye of the adult horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus, views the world with approximately 1000 ommatidia. Their optical properties and orientation determine the eye's resolution, field of view, and light collecting ability. Optic axes of adjacent ommatidia diverge from 1–15 deg with an average value of 5.5 deg yielding an average resolution of 0.1 cycles/deg. Resolution is not uniform across the eye: along horizontal planes, it is maximal in the anterior region of the eye (0.22 cycle/deg) and minimal in the posterior region (0.07 cycle/deg); along vertical planes, it is maximal near or just below the horizon (0.23 cycle/deg) and minimal above the horizon (0.04 cycle/deg). Together the ommatidia of one eye view approximately 60% of the hemispheric world on one side of the body. There is little binocular overlap (<1% of total field). Ommatidial facets of up to 320 μm in diameter (among the largest known in the animal kingdom) make the eye a superb light collector. Limulus are known to use vision to find mates both day and night. Apparently, the optics of the lateral eye sample a large enough part of the world with sufficient resolution and light-collecting ability for the animal to succeed at this essential task.



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The Limulus-eye view of the world

  • Erik D. Herzog (a1) and Robert B. Barlow (a1) (a2)


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