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Science. 2012 Jun 29;336(6089):1700-3. doi: 10.1126/science.1218072.

Photonic crystal light collectors in fish retina improve vision in turbid water.

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Cavendish Laboratory, Department of Physics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0HE, UK.


Despite their diversity, vertebrate retinae are specialized to maximize either photon catch or visual acuity. Here, we describe a functional type that is optimized for neither purpose. In the retina of the elephantnose fish (Gnathonemus petersii), cone photoreceptors are grouped together within reflecting, photonic crystal-lined cups acting as macroreceptors, but rod photoreceptors are positioned behind these reflectors. This unusual arrangement matches rod and cone sensitivity for detecting color-mixed stimuli, whereas the photoreceptor grouping renders the fish insensitive to spatial noise; together, this enables more reliable flight reactions in the fish's dim and turbid habitat as compared with fish lacking this retinal specialization.

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