Scallops: More than Meets the Eye

Scallops: More than Meets the Eye

Contributed by Marielle Grenade-Willis

What does our DNA have to do with a scallop’s eyes? A new study published in Science has found that scallops possess hundreds of eyes made of square tiles of guanine, a compound found in our gene strands. The square tiles act as mirrors reflecting light onto two retinas to focus visual information. Amazingly, the tiles are similar to what you would find in reflector telescopes (the kind used by NASA to inspect objects in space). Both retinas may serve a different purpose according to the scientists, the upper to detect and avoid oncoming predators, the lower to aid in peripheral vision of the overall environment. “Each eye, the new study demonstrates, is exquisitely complex. What’s more, the hundreds of eyes on a scallop all deliver signals to a single cluster of neurons, which may combine that information to create a rich picture of the outside world.” More research is still needed to assess exactly how vision plays a key role in the scallop’s survival, but we can certainly say that what this invertebrate lacks in backbone is plenty made up for with eyesight.