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Spatial vision in the echinoid genus Echinometra
Erin Blevins, Sönke Johnsen


Although eyes are generally considered necessary for image resolution, a diffuse photoreceptive system with directional sensitivity may also have this ability. Two species of the echinoid genus Echinometra were tested for spatial vision by examining their ability to locate and move towards targets of different sizes. The echinoids were significantly oriented (P<0.0001) towards a target with an angular width of 33° (0.3 sr) but were not oriented to targets with angular widths of 26° and 16°. This ability is probably due to the blocking of off-angle light by the spines, which have approximately the correct spacing for the observed resolution. Spatial vision is advantageous for echinoids of this genus because they leave and return to small dark shelters. This first demonstration of spatial vision in an echinoderm sheds further light on the complex optical structures and photobehaviors found in this phylum.

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