Ultraviolet filters in stomatopod crustaceans: Diversity, ecology and evolution

Michael J. Bok*, Megan L. Porter, Thomas W. Cronin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Stomatopod crustaceans employ unique ultraviolet (UV) optical filters in order to tune the spectral sensitivities of their UV-sensitive photoreceptors. In the stomatopod species Neogonodactylus oerstedii, we previously found four filter types, produced by five distinct mycosporine-like amino acid pigments in the crystalline cones of their specialized midband ommatidial facets. This UV-spectral tuning array produces receptors with at least six distinct spectral sensitivities, despite expressing only two visual pigments. Here, we present a broad survey of these UV filters across the stomatopod order, examining their spectral absorption properties in 21 species from seven families in four superfamilies. We found that UV filters are present in three of the four superfamilies, and evolutionary character reconstruction implies that at least one class of UV filter was present in the ancestor of all modern stomatopods. Additionally, postlarval stomatopods were observed to produce the UV filters simultaneously alongside development of the adult eye. The absorbance properties of the filters are consistent within a species; however, between species we found a great deal of diversity, both in the number of filters and in their spectral absorbance characteristics. This diversity correlates with the habitat depth ranges of these species, suggesting that species living in shallow, UV-rich environments may tune their UV spectral sensitivities more aggressively. We also found additional, previously unrecognized UV filter types in the crystalline cones of the peripheral eye regions of some species, indicating the possibility for even greater stomatopod visual complexity than previously thought.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2055-2066
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015


  • Ancestral state reconstruction
  • Mantis shrimp
  • Mycosporine-like amino acids
  • Optical filters
  • Ultraviolet vision


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