Elaborate pupils in skates may help camouflage the eye
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The skate Leucoraja erinacea is a bottom-dweller that buries into the substrate with its eyes protruding, revealing elaborately shaped pupils. It has been suggested that such pupil shapes may camouflage the eye, yet this has never been tested. Here, we asked whether skate pupils dilate or constrict depending on background spatial frequency. In experiment 1, the skates' pupillary response to three artificial checkerboards of different spatial frequencies was recorded. Results showed that pupils did not change in response to spatial frequency. In experiment 2, in which skates buried into three natural substrates of different spatial frequencies, such that their eyes protruded, pupils showed a subtle but statistically significant response to changes in substrate spatial frequency. Although light intensity is the primary factor determining pupil dilation, our results show that pupils also change depending on the spatial frequency of natural substrates, which suggests that pupils may aid in camouflaging the eye.
Author Posting. © Company of Biologists, 2019. This article is posted here by permission of Company of Biologists for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Experimental Biology 222 (2019): jeb195966, doi:10.1242/jeb.195966.