The structural organization of the retinula cells in the eye of Ligia exotica changes diurnally. At night, the microvilli elongate, losing the regular and parallel alignment characteristic of the day condition. Crystalline cones and distal rhabdom tips are not pushed into each other during the day, but at night the rhabdoms protrude into the crystalline cones by up to 5 microm. Screening pigment granules in the retinula cells disperse during the night, but migrate radially towards the vicinity of the rhabdom during the day. No such displacements of the pigment granules of either distal or proximal screening pigment cells were observed. The sensitivity of the eye, monitored by electroretinogram (ERG) recordings, changes diurnally: values at midnight are, on average, 10 times those occurring during the day. However, intracellular recordings from single retinula cells (50 during the day and 50 at night) indicate that the difference between night and day sensitivities is only 2.5-fold. Two-dimensional angular sensitivity curves, indicative of a single unit's spatial sensitivity, had considerably less regular outlines at night than during the day. If based on the 50 % sensitivity level, day and night eyes possessed receptive fields of almost identical width (approximately 2 degrees), but if sensitivities below the 50 % limit were included, then receptive fields at night were significantly more extensive. We suggest that the morphological adaptations and diurnal changes in chromophore content seen in the apposition eye of L. exotica allow this animal to improve its photon capture at night while preserving at least some of the spatial resolving power characteristic of the light-adapted state. This would explain why this animal is capable of performing complex escape behaviours in the presence of predators both in bright and in very dim light.

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