Research Seminar: Professor Simon Laughlin (University of Cambridge)
Professor Simon Laughlin (University of Cambridge) hosted by Martin How
Life Sciences Seminar Rooms (G13/G14)
Efficient resource allocation, eye design and the roots of visual ecology
For well over 100 years studies of eye design have used physical models to show how biological structures and mechanisms are adapted to function. Understanding these, and many other adaptations of visual systems, is the topic of visual ecology. I will present new work on an aspect of eye design that is seldom considered. How should the resources invested in an eye be divided among its components (lenses, optical spacers, photoreceptors etc.) to improve performance? By incorporating a cell biological constraint that links a photoreceptor’s performance to its length and its energy consumption, we show that the efficient allocation of space, materials and energy is an important factor in eye design. Efficient allocation determines the lengths of photoreceptors coding polarization in fly dorsal rim, pronounced regional differences in receptor length in compound eyes, and a generic difference between simple eyes and compound eyes that is so obvious it has been taken for granted. These findings take us to the roots of visual ecology by testing the assumption that adaptations increase the efficiency with which limited resources are used to support vision.
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