Anatomical Analysis of the Retinal Specializations to a Crypto-Benthic, Micro-Predatory Lifestyle in the Mediterranean Triplefin Blenny Tripterygion delaisi Academic Article uri icon


  • The environment and lifestyle of a species are known to exert selective pressure on the visual system, often demonstrating a tight link between visual morphology and ecology. Many studies have predicted the visual requirements of a species by examining the anatomical features of the eye. However, among the vast number of studies on visual specializations in aquatic animals, only a few have focused on small benthic fishes that occupy a heterogeneous and spatially complex visual environment. This study investigates the general retinal anatomy including the topography of both the photoreceptor and ganglion cell populations and estimates the spatial resolving power (SRP) of the eye of the Mediterranean triplefin Tripterygion delaisi. Retinal wholemounts were prepared to systematically and quantitatively analyze photoreceptor and retinal ganglion cell (RGC) densities using design-based stereology. To further examine the retinal structure, we also used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and histological examination of retinal cross sections. Observations of the triplefin's eyes revealed them to be highly mobile, allowing them to view the surroundings without body movements. A rostral aphakic gap and the elliptical shape of the eye extend its visual field rostrally and allow for a rostro-caudal accommodatory axis, enabling this species to focus on prey at close range. Single and twin cones dominate the retina and are consistently arranged in one of two regular patterns, which may enhance motion detection and color vision. The retina features a prominent, dorso-temporal, convexiclivate fovea with an average density of 104,400 double and 30,800 single cones per mm2, and 81,000 RGCs per mm2. Based on photoreceptor spacing, SRP was calculated to be between 6.7 and 9.0 cycles per degree. Location and resolving power of the fovea would benefit the detection and identification of small prey in the lower frontal region of the visual field.

publication date

  • 2017