Abstract: A key innovation for high resolution eyes is a sophisticated lens that precisely focuses light onto photoreceptors. The eyes of holometabolous larvae range from very simple eyes that merely detect light to eyes that are capable of high spatial resolution. Particularly interesting are the bifocal lenses of Thermonectus marmoratus larvae, which differentially focus light on spectrally-distinct retinas. While functional aspects of insect lenses have been relatively well studied, little work has explored their molecular makeup, especially in regard to more complex eye types. To investigate this question, we took a transcriptomic and proteomic approach to identify the major proteins contributing to the principal bifocal lenses of T. marmoratus larvae. Mass spectrometry revealed 10 major lens proteins. Six of these share sequence homology with cuticular proteins, a large class of proteins that are also major components of corneal lenses from adult compound eyes of Drosophila melanogaster and Anopheles gambiae. Two proteins were identified as house-keeping genes and the final two lack any sequence homologies to known genes. Overall the composition seems to follow a pattern of co-opting transparent and optically dense proteins, similar to what has been described for other animal lenses. To identify cells responsible for the secretion of specific lens proteins, we performed in situ hybridization studies and found some expression differences between distal and proximal corneagenous cells. Since the distal cells likely give rise to the periphery and the proximal cells to the center of the lens, our findings highlight a possible mechanism for establishing structural differences that are in line with the bifocal nature of these lenses. A better understanding of lens composition provides insights into the evolution of proper focusing, which is an important step in the transition between low-resolution and high-resolution eyes. (paywall) Aaron L. Stahl Regina S. Baucom Tiffany A. Cook Elke K. Buschbeck, Integrative and Comparative Biology, icx116,
A friend writes, “When it comes to vision it’s more complexity upon more complexity all the way. Even for larvae!”
See also: Hagfish overturn eye evolution theory?
Complex eye co-ordinates own development
Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista