Tubular Eyes of Deep-Sea Fishes: A Comparative Study of Retinal Topography (Part 1 of 2) Academic Article uri icon


  • The world's deep oceans are home to a number of teleosts with asymmetrical or tubular eyes. These immobile eyes possess large spherical lenses and subtend a large binocular visual field directed either dorsally or rostrally. Derived from a lateral non-tubular eye, the tubular eye is comprised of a thick main retina, subserving the rostrally or dorsally directed binocular visual field, and a thin accessory retina subserving, the lateral, monocular visual field. The main retina is thought to receive a focussed image, while the accessory retina is too close to the lens for a focussed image to be received. Several species also possess retinal diverticula, which are small evaginations of differentiated retina located in the rostrolateral wall of the eye and thought to increase the visual field. In order to investigate the spatial resolving power of these retinae (main, accessory and diverticulum), the distribution of cells within the ganglion cell layer was analysed from retinal wholemounts and sectioned material in ten species representing four genera. In all species, the main retina possesses a marked increase in cell density towards a specialised retinal region (area centralis), with a centro-peripheral gradient range between 7:1 and 60:1 and a peak density range of between 30 and 55 x 10(3) cells per mm2. The accessory retinae and the transitional zone between the main and accessory retinae possess relatively low cell densities (between 1 and 10 x 10(3) cells per mm2) and lack an area centralis. Retinal diverticula examined in four species possess mean ganglion cell densities of between 7.2 and 109.4 x 10(3) cells per mm2. Analyses of soma areas show that the ganglion cell layer of most species possesses cells with areas in a range of 8.0 to 15.4 microns2 in the main retina and between 15.1 and 17.4 microns2 in the accessory retina. The peak spatial resolving power of the main retina of the ten species varies from 4.1 to 9.1 cycles per degree. The positions of the retinal areae centrales relative to each species' binocular visual field are discussed in relation to what is known of feeding behaviour of these fishes in the deep-sea.

publication date

  • 1997