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Interspecifc variation in eye shape and retinal topography in seven species of galliform bird (Aves: Galliformes: Phasianidae).

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of comparative physiology. A, Neuroethology, sensory, neural, and behavioral physiology
Publication Date
Volume
198
Issue
10
Pages
717–731
Identifiers
PMID: 22806571
Source
Medline

Abstract

Eye morphology and the retinal topography of animals that live in either 'open' (e.g., grassland) or 'enclosed' (e.g., forest) terrestrial habitats show common adaptations to constraints imposed by these different habitat types. Although relationships between habitat and the visual system are well documented in most vertebrates, relatively few studies have examined this relationship in birds. Here, we compare eye shape and retinal topography across seven species from the family Phasianidae (Galliformes) that are diurnally active in either open or enclosed habitats. Species from enclosed habitats have significantly larger corneal diameters, relative to transverse diameters, than species from open habitats, which we predict serves to enhance visual sensitivity. Retinal topography, however, was similar across all seven species and consisted of a centrally positioned area centralis and a weak horizontal visual streak, with no discernible fovea. In the Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica), there was also a dorso-temporal extension of increased neuron density and, in some specimens, a putative area dorsalis. The total number of neurons in the retinal ganglion cell layer was correlated with retinal whole-mount area. Average and peak neuron densities were similar across species, with the exception of the Japanese quail, which had greater average and peak densities. Peak anatomical spatial resolving power was also similar among species, ranging from approximately 10-13 cycles/°. Overall, the pattern of retinal topography we found in phasianids is associated with ground-foraging in birds and presumably facilitates the identification of small food items on the ground as well as other visually guided behaviors, irrespective of habitat type.

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