12 December, 2014

A major study of the scorpions' lateral eyes

Scorpions have two types of visual organs (usually called eyes): the median and the lateral eyes. Most scorpions have a single pair of median eyes (except for a few troglomorphic species), but the number of pairs of lateral eyes varies very much between the different scorpion taxa and even within some species.

Loria and Prendini have now published a comparative study of variation in the lateral eyes of scorpions based on examinations of a broad range of taxa. The main conclusions of the study can be found in the abstract below.

Scorpions possess two types of visual organs, the median and lateral eyes. Both eyes consist of simple ocelli with biconvex lenses that differ in structure and function. There is little variation in the number of median ocelli across the order. Except for a few troglomorphic species in which the median ocelli are absent, all scorpions possess a single pair. In contrast, the number of pairs of lateral ocelli varies from zero to five across Scorpiones and may vary within species. No attempt has been made to homologize lateral ocelli across the order, and their utility in scorpion systematics has been questioned, due to the variation in number. A recent study examined the number of lateral ocelli among various Asian Buthidae C.L. Koch, 1837 and proposed a ‘‘five-eye model’’ for the family. This model has not been examined more broadly within Buthidae, however, nor compared with the patterns of variation observed among other scorpion families. An eyespot, referred to as an accessory lateral eye, situated ventral or posteroventral to the lateral ocelli, has also been reported in some scorpions. Analysis of its structure suggests it serves a nonvisual function. We present the first comparative study of variation in the lateral ocelli across the order Scorpiones, based on examination of a broad range of exemplar species, representing all families, 160 genera (78%), 196 species (9%), and up to 12 individuals per species. We propose a six-ocellus model for Recent scorpions with four accessory ocelli observed in various taxa, homologize the individual ocelli, and correct erroneous counts in the recent literature. We also investigate the presence of the eyespot across scorpions and discover that it is more widespread than previously recognized. Future work should investigate the genetic and developmental mechanisms underlying the formation of the lateral ocelli to test the hypotheses proposed here.

Loria SF, Prendini L. Homology of the Lateral Eyes of Scorpiones: A Six-Ocellus Model. PLoS One. 2014;9(12):e112913. [Free full text]

Thanks to Matt Simon for informing me about this article!

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