The eyes of deep-sea fish II. Functional morphology of the retina Academic Article uri icon


  • Three different aspects of the morphological organisation of deep-sea fish retinae are reviewed: First, questions of general cell biological relevance are addressed with respect to the development and proliferation patterns of photoreceptors, and problems associated with the growth of multibank retinae, and with outer segment renewal are discussed in situations where there is no direct contact between the retinal pigment epithelium and the tips of rod outer segments. The second part deals with the neural portion of the deep-sea fish retina. Cell densities are greatly reduced, yet neurohistochemistry demonstrates that all major neurotransmitters and neuropeptides found in other vertebrate retinae are also present in deep-sea fish. Quantitatively, convergence rates in unspecialised parts of the retina are similar to those in nocturnal mammals. The differentiation of horizontal cells makes it unlikely that species with more than a single visual pigment are capable of colour vision. In the third part, the diversity of deep-sea fish retinae is highlighted. Based on the topography of ganglion cells, species are identified with areae or foveae located in various parts of the retina, giving them a greatly improved spatial resolving power in specific parts of their visual fields. The highest degree of specialisation is found in tubular eyes. This is demonstrated in a case study of the scopelarchid retina, where as many as seven regions with different degrees of differentiation can be distinguished, ranging from an area giganto cellularis, regions with grouped rods to retinal diverticulum.


publication date

  • October 1998