Morphology of the compound eye of the giant deep-sea isopod Bathynomus giganteus

J Morphol. 1986 Aug;189(2):145-56. doi: 10.1002/jmor.1051890205.


The structural organization of the compound eye of the largest known isopod, Bathynomus giganteus, is described from four specimens maintained in the laboratory for as long as two months. Living specimens have not previously been available for study. The two triangular compound eyes measure about 18 mm on the dorsal edge and are separated by an interocular distance of 25 mm. They face forward and slightly downward and may have significant overlap in visual fields. Each eye contains about 3,500 ommatidia in animals of body lengths from 22.5 cm to 37.5 cm. The packing of ommatidia is not uniform across the retina, but is nearly hexagonal in the dorsal central region and nearly square in the ventral and lateral periphery. The dioptric elements in each ommatidium consist of a laminar cornea, which is flat externally and convex internally, and a bipartite crystalline cone. Sometimes seven and sometimes eight retinular cells closely appose the proximal tip of the cone and bear the microvilli of the rhabdom. Proximal to the rhabdom the retinular cells form thin pillars near the periphery of the ommatidium, and the central portion along the optic axis at this level is occupied by interstitial cells that contain massive arrays of clear vesicles thought to serve as reflective elements. The arhabdomeral segments of the retinular cells and the interstitial cells rest on a basement membrane. Within each ommatidium the basement membrane has two extensions with cylindrical cores and thin sheets of dense material and collagen-like filaments. These sheets occupy spaces between adjacent interstitial cells up to the level of the rhabdomeral segments of the retinular cells. Arrays of pigment cells with relatively weak light-screening properties separate adjacent ommatidia. Animals were fixed both in light within a week of being brought from depth into daylight, and after 2 months of maintenance in constant darkness following such daylight exposure. In both cases, microvilli of the rhabdom were severely disrupted and the retinular cytoplasm contained numerous multivesicular bodies. Exposure to natural daylight appears to cause irreversible structural damage to the photoreceptors of these animals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crustacea / anatomy & histology*
  • Crustacea / physiology
  • Eye / anatomy & histology
  • Light
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Ocular Physiological Phenomena
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology
  • Retina / physiology
  • Retina / ultrastructure