Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom

Research Article

A note on the elongated eye of the octopus Vitreledonella richardi

Michael F. Landa1

a1 School of Biological Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9QG

The elongated eye of Vitreledonella richardi is described from two specimens caught at 200 m in the North Atlantic. It is shown that the cylindrical shape, with the lens placed centrally, results in a reduced field of view in the horizontal plane. It is argued that the unusual shape is an adaptation which minimises the silhouette of the eye as seen from below, and is part of the animal's camouflage strategy.


The majority of fish and cephalopods have two hemispherical eyes, each of which has a field covering roughly the 180° on one side of the animal (Walls, 1942; Packard, 1972). The commonest exceptions to this rule are animals with so-called ‘telescopic’ eyes, found in many species of deepsea fish (e.g. Benthalbella, Argyropelecus, Opisthoproctus, Scopelarchus, see Marshall, 1954; Locket, 1977) and some cephalopods (Amphitretus, see Chun, 1915; Histioteuthis sp., see Young, 1975a). These eyes are tubular, with the lens at the open end of the tube, and a retina with a reduced field of view at the other. The eyes usually point upwards, and it is generally agreed that their shape is determined by the need to concentrate sensitivity and resolution into the rather narrow field above the animal where the residual daylight is still adequate for visual detection. It is 200 times darker in the downward direction (Denton, 1990), and so there must be some depth at which upward vision works, but downward vision does not. These are not the only kind of tubular eyes, however. In some cephalopods, but not to my knowledge in any fish, there are eyes of tubular appearance but with the lens not at the end, but in the centre of the tube (Figure 1).