This article has been reviewed according to Science X's editorial process and policies. Editors have highlighted the following attributes while ensuring the content's credibility:


peer-reviewed publication

trusted source


Prawn larvae found to hide their dark eyes with a light-manipulating material

Prawn larvae found to hide their dark eyes with a light-manipulating material
Cryo-SEM micrographs of a reflective cell in an M. rosenbergii larval eye. (A) A reflective cell (pseudo-colored green), showing the cell nucleus (Nu) located near the rhabdom (Rh, pseudo-colored blue) and the crystalline cone (CC, pseudo-colored yellow). Arrow denotes the direction of the incident light. (B) High magnification image of the cell nucleus. (C,D) The Golgi apparatus or the Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) inside the reflector cell. Credit: Science (2023). DOI: 10.1126/science.add4099

A team of researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the University of Cambridge, the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur reports that transparent prawn larvae (and many other sea creatures) camouflage their dark eyes with a light-manipulating material to reflect colors in the surrounding water.

The group has published a paper describing their close-up analysis of eyeshine reflectors in multiple larval crustaceans in the journal Science. Kate Feller and Megan Porter with Union College in New York have published a Perspective piece in the same journal issue outlining the work by the team.

Many larval creatures that live in the sea are nearly completely transparent, making it difficult for predators to find and eat them. However, the eyes cannot be transparent, as dark pigment is required. In this new effort, the marine scientists have discovered that the creatures have evolved a workaround for this problem—eyeshine reflectors.

Eyeshine reflectors, as their name implies, reflect some of the light before it enters the eyes. They do not need to reflect all of the spectrum; only the colors that exist in the surrounding environment. Thus, if a larval prawn lives in greenish water, reflecting shades of green should be sufficient to hide the eyes from local predators.

For this new study, the researchers took a closer look at the eyeshine reflectors of Machrobrachium rosenbergi, a type of freshwater prawn. To learn about its composition, the group used a and other optical devices to get a look at the on a cellular level.

They found that it was made up of mostly highly reflective cells that contained a photonic glass in the form of crystalline isoxanthopterin nanospheres. This , the research team noted, made the reflectors tunable to some degree. Thus, larvae living in blueish water had slightly different crystal arrangements in their eye covers than did those living in greenish water.

More information: Keshet Shavit et al, A tunable reflector enabling crustaceans to see but not be seen, Science (2023). DOI: 10.1126/science.add4099

Kate Feller et al, Photonic tinkering in the open ocean, Science (2023). DOI: 10.1126/science.adf2062

Journal information: Science

© 2023 Science X Network

Citation: Prawn larvae found to hide their dark eyes with a light-manipulating material (2023, February 17) retrieved 29 September 2023 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

New type of visual filter discovered in an unlikely place


Feedback to editors