Now You See Me: Scallops Have Over A Hundred Telescope-Like Eyes

By Athena Chan | Dec 03, 2017 05:41 AM EST

Scallops have over a hundred luminous blue eyes that are specially adapted to its environment. In each of its eyes is an image-forming mirror that works quite like a reflector telescope.

Scallop Eyes And Guanine Crystals

Many animals have lenses in their eyes in order to focus light onto the retina in order to see while some marine animals instead have a mirror behind the retina. An example of this is the scallop- and they have over a hundred eyes to prove it.

Thanks to scientist Michael Land, scientists have known since the 1960s that scallop eyes have mirrors instead of lenses at the back of their eyes. However, he never got to find out what those mirrors were made of. He guessed that they might be made of guanine crystals like the ones in shiny crustaceans. Unfortunately, the technology at the time dehydrated the samples before he could even examine them.

According to a new research published in the journal Science, Land was right in thinking that the mirror is made of miniscule guanine crystals that function as a multi-layer reflector for the scallop's eyes much like a reflector telescope.

Over A Hundred Telescope-Like Eyes

By using a scanning electron microscope, researchers were able to examine the structure of the mirror and found that they are made of tiny, square plates of guanine crystals formed together with barely any gaps between them. The multi-layered concave mirror allows the scallop's retina to receive different imaging, with one layer focused on the peripheral view and the other on the central visual field.

This makes for a creature with significantly better vision than that of other bivalve species, not to mention, they have over a hundred of these telescope-like eyes.

"The entire mirror construction is well adapted to the environment where scallops live," said Gavin Taylor of the Lund University, one of the authors of the study.

Scallop-Inspired Underwater Cameras

According to researchers, the results of their findings could likely inspire technological developments in the future. Specifically, they find that it's possible to develop underwater cameras inspired by the scallop eyes for use in robotics and even in the biomedical setting.

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