Spikes were recorded from single axons in the siphonal nerve of the hardshell clam Mercenaria mercenaria which respond to dimming of light. No axons were found to respond to the onset, or increase, of illumination. In a dark-adapted state there is little or no ongoing spike activity. The responsive area of a single axon is a circle of approximately 85 µm diameter on the inner siphon wall. The number of spikes elicited at the off of constant-duration flashes grows as approximately the 0.4 power of flash intensity. For constant intensity and constant light-time fraction, the off-response increases with increasing duration at least up to 500 s duration. For long durations, the response grows as the logarithm of stimulus duration. Subthreshold light can suppress the off-response from preceding illumination. In a light-adapted state, the off-response is greater and its latency shorter than in the dark-adapted state. The fine structure of groups of cell processes thought to comprise the photoreceptor in Mercenaria is described. On the basis of morphological and physiological findings it is suggested that phototransduction occurs in the fine distal processes of the axons from which we have recorded. Axonal processes were found to contain well organized pentalaminar whorls which may be the site of photo-pigment concentration. The action spectrum obtained from the integrated responses of nerve bundles appears to be that of a single Dartnall pigment having maximal absorption at about 510 nm.

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