World.- Ophiocoma wendtii is a ‘premium’ species of starfish that lives on the reefs of the Caribbean Sea and has been of interest to scientists since 1984 discovering that, although lacking eyes, it was extremely sensitive to light and changed color from intense red during the day to a beige at night.
Now, a study from the Museum of Natural Sciences at the University of Oxford (UK), published in the journal Current Biology, confirms that this color change plays an important role in its particular vision mechanism.
“In the face of a disturbance in their natural habitat, these organisms move towards the nearest object or into the dark, but we didn’t know if this is because they formed an image of the outside or simply an attraction to the shadow,” sainc Lauren Sumner-Rooney, lead author of the work, tells Sinc Lauren Sumner-Rooney.
Together with the team members of the Museum f’r Naturkunde (Germany), the University of Lund (Sweden) and the Georgian Institute of Technology (USA), the zoologist conducted hundreds of behavioral experiments to test the ‘view’ of these stars.
“Last year we discovered that ophiocoma wendtii’s body was covered with thousands of light-sensitive cells (photoreceptors). We thought that each of these cells could pick up a part of the visual scene, so they would function as pixels and between them all compose the image,” she explains.
However, the author stresses that these animals have no brains and have relatively little processing power in their nervous system, “so it’s hard to imagine how they could put these pixels together to form an image of the environment.”