The eyes of lanternfishes (Myctophidae, Teleostei): Novel ocular specializations for vision in dim light Academic Article uri icon


  • Lanternfishes are one of the most abundant groups of mesopelagic fishes in the world's oceans and play a critical role in biomass vertical turnover. Despite their importance, very little is known about their physiology or how they use their sensory systems to survive in the extreme conditions of the deep sea. In this study, we provide a comprehensive description of the general morphology of the myctophid eye, based on analysis of 53 different species, to understand better their visual capabilities. Results confirm that myctophids possess several visual adaptations for dim-light conditions, including enlarged eyes, an aphakic gap, a tapetum lucidum, and a pure rod retina with high densities of long photoreceptors. Two novel retinal specializations were also discovered. The first specialization is a fundal pigmentation in adult eyes, found within an isolated retinal region (typically central retina) composed of modified pigment epithelial cells, which we hypothesize to be the remnant of a more pronounced visual specialization important in larval stages. The second specialization is an aggregation of extracellular microtubular-like structures found within the sclerad region of the inner nuclear layer of the retina. We hypothesize that the marked interspecific differences in the hypertrophy of these microtubular-like structures may be related to inherent differences in visual function. A general interspecific variability in other parts of the eye is also revealed and examined in this study. The contribution of both ecology and phylogeny to the evolution of ocular specializations and vision in dim light are discussed.

publication date

  • 2014