Wolf, Klaus W.; Reid, Walton ; Schrauf, Michael
Author Affiliation, Ana.
Electron Microscopy Unit
Optical illusions in scanning electron micrographs: The case of the eggshell of Acrosternum (Chinavia) marginatum (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae)
Date of Publication
Scanning electron microscopy revealed that—as is common in this family of the Hemiptera—the eggs of the green stink bug Acrosternum (Chinavia) marginatum are roughly barrel-shaped and possess at their apical pole a row of slender extensions, the aero-micropylar processes. The outer surface of the eggshell carries hexagonally arranged pits. The analysis of cross-fractured eggshells showed that the pits have slender basal extensions with transverse diaphragms. When scanning electron micrographs of the egg surface of A. marginatum are viewed upside down, the perception flips and the pits appear as elevations to all observers addressed. Thus, we are dealing with an optical illusion, which is known as the ‘shape-from-shading effect’. The perceived dents remain robust to changes in the angle of recording (zero to ca. 60° tilt), the magnification (ca. ×100 to ×1400), and the number of pits included in the micrograph (one to several hundred). When through appropriate positioning of the specimen under the electron beam, contrast is significantly reduced and the distinct shadows at the slope of the pits are eliminated, the optical illusion does not appear. It is inferred that shades provide the decisive clue that determines whether bumps or dents will be perceived. Owing to the low resolution of their compound eyes, the shape-from-shading effect on the eggshell of the bug is in all likelihood not perceived by insects.....