Retinal anatomy of Chorocaris chacei, a deep-sea hydrothermal vent shrimp from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

J Comp Neurol. 1997 Sep 8;385(4):503-14.


Exploration of deep-sea hydrothermal vents over the past quarter century has revealed that they support unique and diverse biota. Despite the harsh nature of the environment, vents along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge are dominated by large masses of highly motile Bresiliid shrimp. Until 1989, when it was discovered that the vent shrimp Rimicaris exoculata possesses a hypertrophied dorsal eye, many believed that animals populating hydrothermal vents were blind. Chorocaris chacei (originally designated Rimicaris chacei) is a Bresiliid shrimp found at hydrothermal vent fields along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Like R. exoculata, C. chacei has a hypertrophied retina that appears to be specialized to detect the very small amount of light emitted from the orifices of black smoker hydrothermal vent chimneys. C. chacei lacks the sophisticated compound eyes common to other decapod crustaceans. Instead, it has a smooth cornea, with no dioptric apparatus, apposed by a tightly packed, massive array of photosensitive membrane. Photoreceptors in the C. chacei retina are segmented into a hypertrophied region that contains the photosensitive membrane and an atrophied cell body that is roughly ten times smaller in volume than the photosensitive segment. The microvillar photosensitive membrane is consistent in structure and ultrastructure with the rhabdoms of decapod and other invertebrate retinas. However, the volume density of photosensitive membrane (> or =60%) exceeds that typically observed in invertebrate retinas. The reflecting pigment cells commonly found in decapod retinas are represented in the form of a matrix of white diffusing cells that exhibit Tyndall scattering and form an axial sheath around the photoreceptors. All photoreceptor screening pigment granules and screening pigment cells are restricted to the region below the photoreceptor nuclei and are thereby removed from the path of incident light. No ultrastructural evidence of rhythmic cycling of photosensitive membrane was observed. The morphological adaptations observed in the C. chacei retina suggest that it is a high-sensitivity photodetector that is of functional significance to the animal.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anatomy, Artistic
  • Animals
  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Decapoda / anatomy & histology*
  • Eye / anatomy & histology
  • Eye / ultrastructure
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Invertebrate / ultrastructure
  • Retina / anatomy & histology*
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / ultrastructure