Ecological constraints on sensory systems: compound eye size in Daphnia is reduced by resource limitation

Brandon, Christopher S.
Dudycha, Jeffry L.
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Eye size is an indicator of visual capability, and macroevolutionary patterns reveal that taxa inhabiting dim environments have larger eyes than taxa from bright environments. This suggests that the light environment is a key driver of variation in eye size. Yet other factors not directly linked with visual tasks (i.e., non-sensory factors) may influence eye size. We sought to jointly investigate the roles of sensory (light) and non-sensory factors (food) in determining eye size and ask whether non-sensory factors could constrain visual capabilities. We tested environmental influences on eye size in four species of the freshwater crustacean Daphnia, crossing bright and dim light levels with high and low resource levels. We measured absolute eye size and eye size relative to body size in early and late adulthood. In general, Daphnia reared on low resources had smaller eyes, both absolutely and relatively. In contrast to the dominant macroevolutionary pattern, phenotypic plasticity in response to light was rarely significant. These patterns of phenotypic plasticity were true for overall diameter of the eye and the diameter of individual facets. We conclude that non-sensory environmental factors can influence sensory systems, and in particular, that resource availability may be an important constraint on visual capability.
Ecology, Environment, Daphnia, Vision
Brandon, C. S., & Dudycha, J. L. (2014). Ecological constraints on sensory systems: compound eye size in Daphnia is reduced by resource limitation. Journal Of Comparative Physiology. A, Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, And Behavioral Physiology, 200(8), 749-758. doi:10.1007/s00359-014-0918-y