Exploring Animal Photoreceptors and Eyes: Tested Studies for Laboratory Teaching

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Conference Proceeding

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Proceedings of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education

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Association for Biology Laboratory Education


In this exercise, students examine an array of invertebrates and vertebrates to explore structure-function relationships among animals, using photoreception and vision as a context. This exercise was developed to accompany aPhysics-based lab (Barney et al. 2009), in which students model the physical relationships of different structural “eye” types. Building on the biodiversity component, students examine simple eyespots (Dugesia); a variety of eyes that use “pinholes” to channel light rays; and the eyes of scallops (Pecten) which include reflective “mirror” surfaces. Students also study microscope slides to examine structure-function relationships in insect compound eyes and to compare the retinas of various vertebrates. Additionally, they dissect a representative mammalian eye (Bos). In an optional investigation, students collect data from humans to test a working hypothesis about the relationship between age and accommodation.


Zoology, Vision, Structure-function relationships, Retina, Photoreceptors, Eyes, Dissection, Animal Anatomy and Physiology