The high contrast, complex patterns typical of many reef fish serve several purposes, including providing disruptive camouflage and a basis for vision-based communication. In trying to understand the role of a specific pattern it is important to first assess the extent to which an observer can resolve the pattern, itself determined, at least in part, by the observer’s visual acuity. In this study, we study the visual acuity of two species of reef fish using both anatomical and behavioural estimates. The two species in question share a common habitat but are members of different trophic levels (predator vs. herbivore/omnivore) and perform different visual tasks. On the basis of the anatomical study we estimated visual acuity to lie between 4.1 – 4.6 cycles per degree (cpd) for Pomacentrus amboinensis and 3.2 – 3.6 cpd for Pseudochromis fuscus. Behavioural acuity estimates were considerably lower, ranging between 1.29 and 1.36 cpd for Pomacentrus amboinensis and 1.61 and 1.71 cpd for Pseudochromis fuscus. Our results show that two species from the same habitat have only moderately divergent visual capabilities, despite differences in their general life histories. The difference between anatomical and behavioural estimates is an important finding as the majority of our current knowledge on the resolution capabilities of reef fish comes from anatomical measurements. Our findings suggest that anatomical estimates may represent the highest potential acuity of fish but are not indicative of actual performance, and that there is unlikely to be a simple scaling factor to link the two measures across all fish species.
- Received September 13, 2016.
- Accepted April 13, 2017.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd