Excitatory properties of visual cells in the lateral eye of Limulus, investigated by optic nerve recordings in situ, differ significantly from the properties of cells in the classical, excised eye preparation. The differences suggest the possibility that two receptor mechanisms function in the eye in situ: one mechanism encodes low light intensities and the other responds to high intensities. The two mechanisms enable each ommatidium to respond over an intensity range of approximately 10 log units. This hypothesis was tested by measuring the increment threshold and the spectral sensitivity, by studying light and dark adaptation, and by analyzing the variability of the impulse discharge. Although the results do not conclusively identify two receptor mechanisms, they indicate that a process or a part of a process that functions in the eye in situ is abolished by excising the eye or cutting off its blood supply.

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