The 'disco' clam Ctenoides ales (Finlay, 1927) is a marine bivalve that has a unique, vivid flashing display that is a result of light scattering by silica nanospheres and rapid mantle movement. The eyes of C. ales were examined to determine their visual capabilities and whether the clams can see the flashing of conspecifics. Similar to the congener C. scaber, C. ales exhibits an off-response (shadow reflex) and an on-response (light reflex). In field observations, a shadow caused a significant increase in flash rate from a mean of 3.9 Hz to 4.7 Hz (P=0.0016). In laboratory trials, a looming stimulus, which increased light intensity, caused a significant increase in flash rate from a median of 1.8 Hz to 2.2 Hz (P=0.0001). Morphological analysis of the eyes of C. ales revealed coarsely-packed photoreceptors lacking sophisticated structure, resulting in visual resolution that is likely too low to detect the flashing of conspecifics. As the eyes of C. ales are incapable of perceiving conspecific flashing, it is likely that their vision is instead used to detect predators.
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Dougherty, Lindsey F; Dubielzig, Richard R; Schobert, Charles S; Teixeira, Leandro B; and Li, Jingchun, "Do you see what I see? Optical morphology and visual capability of 'disco' clams (" (2017). University of Colorado Museum of Natural History Faculty Contributions. 2.