Spectral transmittance of the spectacle scale of snakes and geckos
Contributions to Zoology , Volume 84 - Issue 1 p. 1- 12
The spectral transmittance of the optical media of the eye plays a substantial role in tuning the spectrum of light available for capture by the retina. Certain squamate reptiles, including snakes and most geckos, shield their eyes beneath a layer of transparent, cornified skin called the ‘spectacle’. This spectacle offers an added opportunity compared with eyelidded animals for tayloring the spectrum. In particular, the hard scale that covers the surface of the spectacle provides a unique material, keratin, rarely found in vertebrate eyes, a material which may have unique spectral properties. To verify this, shed snake and gecko skins were collected and the spectral transmittance of spectacle scales was spectrophotometrically analyzed. The spectacle scale was found generally to behave as a highpass filter with a cut-off in the ultraviolet spectrum where taxonomic variation is mostly observed. The spectacle scales of colubrid and elapid snakes were found to exhibit higher cut-off wavelengths than those of pythonids, vipers, and most boids. Gecko spectacle scales in turn exhibited exceptional spectral transmittance through the visual spectrum down into the UV-B. It is suggested that this is due to the absence of beta-keratins in their spectacle scale.
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van Doorn, K, & Sivak, J.G. (2015). Spectral transmittance of the spectacle scale of snakes and geckos. Contributions to Zoology, 84(1), 1–12.