Rimicaris exoculata

Blinded by the light

bright lights submersible

Fig. 15 – The powerful lights of the submersible Alvin used to illuminate the ocean depths

As the eyes of Rimicaris exoculata are adapted for extremely low light levels, it has been suggested that the bright lights of the submersibles (fig. 15) used to visit the vents could cause permanent damage to the eyes (Herring et al, 1999). The theory seemed to explain the failure of observers to detect any behavioral response by Rimicaris towards the lights of submersibles. The theory was supported by samples which appeared to show retinal abnormalities in the eye of Rimicaris (fig. 16). Although it is likely individuals of Rimicaris are indeed “blinded by the light”, long term studies have failed to detect any evidence of a decline in the population of Rimicaris at frequently visited vents (Copley et al, 2007) suggesting that occasional visits by scientists does not pose a conservation threat to Rimicaris.

Fig. 2 - The normal eye of  R. exoculata (a) and a damaged eye (b) © Herring et al, 1999

Fig. 16 – The normal eye of Rimicaris (a) and a damaged eye (b) © Herring et al, 1999

 

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