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Data from: Controlled iris radiance in a diurnal fish looking at prey

Cite this dataset

Michiels, Nico K. et al. (2018). Data from: Controlled iris radiance in a diurnal fish looking at prey [Dataset]. Dryad.


Active sensing using light, or active photolocation, is only known from deep sea and nocturnal fish with chemiluminescent "search" lights. Bright irides in diurnal fish species have recently been proposed as a potential analogue. Here, we contribute to this discussion by testing whether iris radiance is actively modulated. The focus is on behaviourally controlled iris reflections, called "ocular sparks". The triplefin Tripterygion delaisi can alternate between red and blue ocular sparks, allowing us to test the prediction that spark frequency and hue depend on background hue and prey presence. In a first experiment, we found that blue ocular sparks were significantly more often "on" against red backgrounds, and red ocular sparks against blue backgrounds, particularly when copepods were present. A second experiment tested whether hungry fish showed more ocular sparks, which was not the case. Again, background hue resulted in differential use of ocular spark types. We conclude that iris radiance through ocular sparks in T. delaisi is not a side effect of eye movement, but adaptively modulated in response to the context under which prey are detected. We discuss the possible alternative functions of ocular sparks, including an as yet speculative role in active photolocation.

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