Mismatch between the eye and the optic lobe in the giant squid

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Mismatch between the eye and the optic lobe in the giant squid
Yung-Chieh Liu, Tsung-Han Liu, Chun-Chieh Yu, Chia-Hao Su, Chuan-Chin Chiao 2017 (Full article Royal Society Open Science)
Abstract
Giant squids (Architeuthis) are a legendary species among the cephalopods. They live in the deep sea and are well known for their enormous body and giant eyes. It has been suggested that their giant eyes are not adapted for the detection of either mates or prey at distance, but rather are best suited for monitoring very large predators, such as sperm whales, at distances exceeding 120 m and at a depth below 600 m (Nilsson et al. 2012 Curr. Biol. 22, 683–688. (doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.02.031)). However, it is not clear how the brain of giant squids processes visual information. In this study, the optic lobe of a giant squid (Architeuthis dux, male, mantle length 89 cm), which was caught by local fishermen off the northeastern coast of Taiwan, was scanned using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging in order to examine its internal structure. It was evident that the volume ratio of the optic lobe to the eye in the giant squid is much smaller than that in the oval squid (Sepioteuthis lessoniana) and the cuttlefish (Sepia pharaonis). Furthermore, the cell density in the cortex of the optic lobe is significantly higher in the giant squid than in oval squids and cuttlefish, with the relative thickness of the cortex being much larger in Architeuthis optic lobe than in cuttlefish. This indicates that the relative size of the medulla of the optic lobe in the giant squid is disproportionally smaller compared with these two cephalopod species. This morphological study of the giant squid brain, though limited only to the optic lobe, provides the first evidence to support that the optic lobe cortex, the visual information processing area in cephalopods, is well developed in the giant squid. In comparison, the optic lobe medulla, the visuomotor integration centre in cephalopods, is much less developed in the giant squid than other species. This finding suggests that, despite the giant eye and a full-fledged cortex within the optic lobe, the brain of giant squids has not evolved proportionally in terms of performing complex tasks compared with shallow-water cephalopod species.
 

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