Observations on the fluorescence and function of spiders' eyes


  • M. R. Young*,

  • F. Wanless*


Preliminary observations on spiders' eyes showed that certain eyes fluoresce in ultraviolet light and others do not. The response of these eyes to ultraviolet and visible light has been investigated to discover the relationship, if any, of eye fluorescence with eye function.

In the first part of this paper it is shown that of eight spiders from families with widely differing habits, vision and behaviour, five species reacted to light fluctuations and to differences in brightness of the primary colours blue, green and red. Three species did not respond to lightand only two, S. scenicus and E. falcata, indicated a preference for blue light. It was also found that the visual sensitivity of S. secenicus extended into the ultraviolet. The second part of the paper gives the results of examination in ultraviolet light of the eyes of 40 species from 11 families. Spiders with poor sight and a preference for shade generally showed a strong fluorescence of all eyes. The anterior median and lateral eyes of those species with good sight fluoresced only weakly or not at all, whereas the posterior median and lateral eyes ofthese spiders fluoresced brightly.

Freshly cut frozen sections of the eyes of two selected species, S. scenicus with good sight and C. similis with poor sight, were examined with the fluorescence, phase and polarizing microscopes. The localization of the fluorescence in these eyes is described and a fluorescent substance, common to all the spiders, was found in the lens of the eyes of most species examined.Additional information on the structure of the cornea and lens was also revealed by phase and polarized light microscopy.

The results suggest that spiders' eyes respond to light in different ways and the fluorescent substance present in the lens of the eyes is related to eye function.