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Visual Capability of the Weakly Electric Fish Apteronotus albifrons as Revealed by a Modified Retinal Flat-Mount Method.

  • Takiyama, Tomo1
  • Luna da Silva, Valdir
  • Moura Silva, Daniel
  • Hamasaki, Sawako
  • Yoshida, Masayuki
  • 1 Graduate School of Biosphere Science, Hiroshima University, Higashihiroshima, Japan. , (Japan)
Published Article
Brain, behavior and evolution
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2015
DOI: 10.1159/000438448
PMID: 26346851


Apteronotus albifrons (Gymnotiformes, Apteronotidae) is well known to have a sophisticated active electrosense system and is commonly described as having poor vision or being almost blind. However, some studies on this species suggest that the visual system may have a role in sensing objects in the environment. In this study, we investigated the visual capabilities of A. albifrons by focusing on eye morphology and retinal ganglion cell distribution. The eyes were almost embedded below the body surface and pigmented dermal tissue covered the peripheral regions of the pupil, limiting the direction of incoming light. The lens was remarkably flattened compared to the almost spherical lenses of other teleosts. The layered structure of the retina was not well delineated and ganglion cells did not form a continuous sheet of cell bodies. A newly modified retinal flat-mount method was applied to reveal the ganglion cell distribution. This method involved postembedding removal of the pigment epithelium of the retina for easier visualization of ganglion cells in small and/or fragile retinal tissues. We found that ganglion cell densities were relatively high in the periphery and highest in the nasal and temporal retina, although specialization was not so high (approx. 3:1) with regard to the medionasal or mediotemporal axis. The estimated highest possible spatial resolving power was around 0.57 and 0.54 cycles/degree in the nasal and temporal retina, respectively, confirming the lower importance of the visual sense in this species. However, considering the hunting nature of A. albifrons, the relatively high acuity of the caudal visual field in combination with electrolocation may well be used to locate prey situated close to the side of the body.

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