Cubozoan medusae have a stereotypic set of 24 eyes, some of which are structurally similar to vertebrate and cephalopod eyes. Across the approximately 25 described species, this set of eyes varies surprisingly little, suggesting that they are involved in an equally stereotypic set of visual tasks. During the day Tripedalia cystophora is found at the edge of mangrove lagoons where it accumulates close to the surface in sun-lit patches between the prop roots. Copula sivickisi (formerly named Carybdea sivickisi) is associated with coral reefs and has been observed to be active at night. At least superficially, the eyes of the two species are close to identical. We studied the diurnal activity pattern of these two species both in the wild and under controlled conditions in laboratory experiments. Despite the very similar visual systems, we found that they display opposite patterns of diurnal activity. T. cystophora is active exclusively during the day, whereas C. sivickisi is actively swimming at night, when it forages and mates. At night T. cystophora is found on the muddy bottom of the mangrove lagoon. C. sivickisi spends the day attached to structures such as the underside of stones and coral skeletons. This species difference seems to have evolved to optimize foraging, since the patterns of activity follow those of the available prey items in their respective habitats.
|Status||Published - 2012|