Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Visual Ecology

Visual Ecology

Thomas W. Cronin
Sönke Johnsen
N. Justin Marshall
Eric J. Warrant
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 432
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Visual Ecology
    Book Description:

    Visual ecology is the study of how animals use visual systems to meet their ecological needs, how these systems have evolved, and how they are specialized for particular visual tasks.Visual Ecologyprovides the first up-to-date synthesis of the field to appear in more than three decades. Featuring some 225 illustrations, including more than 140 in color, spread throughout the text, this comprehensive and accessible book begins by discussing the basic properties of light and the optical environment. It then looks at how photoreceptors intercept light and convert it to usable biological signals, how the pigments and cells of vision vary among animals, and how the properties of these components affect a given receptor's sensitivity to light. The book goes on to examine how eyes and photoreceptors become specialized for an array of visual tasks, such as navigation, evading prey, mate choice, and communication.

    A timely and much-needed resource for students and researchers alike,Visual Ecologyalso includes a glossary and a wealth of examples drawn from the full diversity of visual systems.

    The most up-to-date overview of visual ecology availableFeatures some 225 illustrations, including more than 140 in color, spread throughout the textGuides readers from the basic physics of light to the role of visual systems in animal behaviorIncludes a glossary and a wealth of real-world examples

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5302-1
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Physics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    A tiny fruit fly, hardly bigger than a speck of dust, drifts along the edge of a pond in the morning sunlight, keeping a constant course and height through the unpredictable buffeting of the morning breeze. Despite its minuscule size, its silhouette against the empty sky has betrayed the fly’s passage to an alert predator. A dragonfly perched on the pond side rises in a buzz of wings, aims to intersect the fruit fly’s path, and plucks it from the air in a graceful upward swoop. Returning to its perch to enjoy its catch, the dragonfly is spotted by a...

  6. 2 Light and the Optical Environment
    (pp. 10-36)

    You are about to take your dive in a submersible. Yesterday, the ship left port in a brackish lagoon on the Florida coast. There, the water was first brown and opaque, like chocolate milk, then green and clear like an aquarium that had not been cleaned in months. The weather was beautiful with a sun too bright to look at and a sky that was deep blue overhead and a paler blue near the horizon. Today, the water is an astonishing and pure shade of blue, with glints of white sunlight at the edges of the waves. The submersible dips...

  7. 3 Visual Pigments and Photoreceptors
    (pp. 37-65)

    At noon in the featureless depths of the open ocean, when this world is as bright as it ever can be, a silently cruising dragonfish sees only a dim blue glow overhead grading into darkness all around. As the afternoon progresses, the dragonfish and its invisible neighbors for many kilometers around slowly begin their daily migration toward the surface, following the irresistible call of the slowly dimming blue beacon above. Suddenly, in this monochromatic world, a flash of red bioluminescence appears in the gloom. The dragonfish instantly turns to reorient, alerted by the signal. None of the other fish, even...

  8. 4 The Optical Building Blocks of Eyes
    (pp. 66-90)

    Almost 2 km below the turbulent surface waters of the open ocean, the softskin smooth-head, a small black fish, slowly swims through the inky darkness. Its tiny eyes pierce the blackness in search of the rare and fitful sparks of living light produced by other animals, the only light this fish will ever see. These tiny punctate flashes of light, brilliant against the shroud of darkness behind, may signal the arrival of a seldomly encountered mate or announce the presence of an equally rare meal. Localizing the point, and acting accordingly, will be a matter of urgency—it may be...

  9. 5 The Eye Designs of the Animal Kingdom
    (pp. 91-115)

    If we could put our submersible from chapter 2 into a time machine and take another dive, this time into the oceans of 540 million years ago, we would encounter a world of strange and wonderful creatures—all new to us but somehow reminiscent of the animals around us today. In fact, one of the most spectacular events in the history of the animal kingdom has just occurred. In the space of a just few million years—a blink of an eye in geological terms—many of our familiar modern animal lineages suddenly appeared on the Earth. They typically had...

  10. 6 Spatial Vision
    (pp. 116-145)

    An endless shimmering expanse of tinder-dry yellow grass, broken only by an occasional grove of ancient gnarled eucalypts, bakes under the relentless Australian noonday sun. The heat, rising in great invisible shards from the ground, is palpable. Without warning, one of the world’s largest birds of prey—the wedge-tailed eagleAguila audax—lifts slowly and deliberately from its aerie in a nearby gum tree, its huge wings climbing ladders of air to gain height. Arching leftward, it enters a vertical chimney of heat and surges heavenward in wide spirals. Atop this thermal, almost 2 km above the ground, this massive...

  11. 7 Color Vision
    (pp. 146-177)

    From a small hole in a tree, a bee starts her morning journey. She flies over an emerald-green field looking for nectar and pollen from today’s flowering of yellow buttercups. Their positions and colors are clearly visible to the bee, as her compound eyes sample light from three regions in the spectrum: green, blue, and ultraviolet (UV). As she lands on each flower, her UV photoreceptors help pick out nectar-guides that lead her to the treasure within. At the other end of the field, a farmer is giving his horse some apples for a snack. The farmer also samples three...

  12. 8 Polarization Vision
    (pp. 178-205)

    In the South African savannah a well-fed elephant deposits a pile of dung like a scattering of messy brown spheres. Soon, dung beetles arrive and busy themselves, rolling balls of the nutritious stuff away to a safe place where they can deposit an egg inside. Each performs a strange dance before starting, climbing to the top of its ball and twirling in a pirouette. Dung beetles compete for resources, and once their prize ball is constructed, the best way to escape other beetles is to roll the ball in a straight line directly away from the dung heap. The direction...

  13. 9 Vision in Attenuating Media
    (pp. 206-231)

    A young herring is swimming in a large school of other herrings in murky, green water somewhere off the western coast of Europe. Looking around, it is reassured by the presence of its fellow fish. The nearby herring are shiny, and our fish can see the details of each of their scales. However, the herring that are a meter away do not look quite so clear. They are still easily visible, but they do not look as shiny, and the details of their scales, even though they are still large enough to resolve, are too faint to see. The more...

  14. 10 Motion Vision and Eye Movements
    (pp. 232-261)

    In a grassy, open field in southern Spain, the sun is shining brightly. A sharp-eyed observer—one who knew exactly where to look—might spot a tiny killer fly,Coenosia attenuata, perched near the tip of a blade of grass, facing the open sky in the attitude of an insect kind of alertness. The fly is much smaller than a common housefly. Yet its minuscule dark-red eyes must be surveying the overhead light field with astonishing acuity—as a tiny gnat buzzes through the air above the attentive predator, the killer fly launches itself like a dipteran missile directly into...

  15. 11 Vision in Dim Light
    (pp. 262-288)

    On Barro Colorado Island, in the middle of the Panama Canal, the day is drawing to its inevitable close. The sun’s last rays spread gold across the steamy rainforest canopy, and a relentless chorus of bush crickets begins to crank to life. The howler monkeys, cementing their territories with a final volley of hoots, settle down for the night. An impenetrable twilight slowly shrouds the understory. Concealed by the growing cover of darkness other animals begin to stir, making ready to forage for food and to find mates. One, the nocturnal sweat beeMegalopta genalis, emerges from her hollowed-out stick...

  16. 12 Visual Orientation and Navigation
    (pp. 289-312)

    It is a sunny late afternoon on a beach on the west coast of Italy, not far from Pisa. With sunset approaching, the sandhoppers are on the move! Sandhoppers, smallish semiterrestrial amphipods that look like nothing more than animated brown beans (figure 12.1), hop up or down the beach as they commute between the damp sands where they burrow for safety or hide for the day and the patches of sand at the waters edge or the zones of debris where they forage. Look carefully—you can see that they are making their way up or down the beach eastward...

  17. 13 Signals and Camouflage
    (pp. 313-344)

    A juvenile swordfish is slowly cruising the depths of the Sargasso Sea when it spots a small object silhouetted against the dim and blue downwelling light. It is hard to see clearly, but the object resembles the body of a small fish drifting sideways, as if it were injured, sick, or dying. The swordfish, which has been traveling the empty sea for over a day without seeing any suitable food, turns upward and begins to approach this easy prey with ever-increasing speed. Just as it is about to strike, the swordfish briefly notices a much larger and blue cylindrical object...

  18. Glossary
    (pp. 345-354)
  19. References
    (pp. 355-382)
  20. General Index
    (pp. 383-400)
  21. Index of Names
    (pp. 401-405)