Evolutionary shifts in vertebrate visual ecology and visual system morphology
A NESCent Working Group
Organizers: Margaret Hall, Christopher Heesy, Andrew Iwaniuk
There are numerous scholars working independently on the evolution of the vertebrate visual system. Much of this research is related to activity pattern (the time of day when an animal is awake and active), visual sensitivity (vision under low light conditions), and visual acuity (the ability to perceive image details). To obtain a better understanding of how the structure of the visual system varies with activity pattern, sensitivity, acuity and other factors, we propose to bring together researchers from a wide range of disciplines including: comparative physiology, anatomy, functional morphology, paleontology, phylogenetics, and physics. The interests of these various workers include such topics as patterns of gross eye size and shape; retinal topography; behavioral studies of color use; and the relationship between orbit orientation, visual range, and activity pattern. Many of these scholars have compiled large datasets with a great deal of potential for addressing the evolution of the visual system in relation to ecology in all vertebrate groups and significant insight can be gleaned by integrating these datasets. For example, it is clear that there are correlations between shifts in activity pattern and different eye and retinal morphologies, but causal relationships and how these changes have occurred over evolutionary time and in different taxonomic groups are unclear. Our goals therefore include:
- plans for review publications that address evolutionary patterns and causality;
- the construction of online, publicly available databases; and
- the generation of new questions that can be addressed by integrating these disparate data and expertise.
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