Retinal specializations and visual ecology in an animal with an extremely elaborate pupil shape: the little skate Leucoraja (Raja) erinacea Mitchell, 1825. Academic Article uri icon


  • Investigating retinal specializations offers insights into eye functionality. Using retinal wholemount techniques, we investigated the distribution of retinal ganglion cells in the Little skate Leucoraja erinacea by (a) dye-backfilling into the optic nerve prior to retinal wholemounting; (b) Nissl-staining of retinal wholemounts. Retinas were examined for regional specializations (higher numbers) of ganglion cells that would indicate higher visual acuity in those areas. Total ganglion cell number were low compared to other elasmobranchs (backfilled: average 49,713 total ganglion cells, average peak cell density 1,315 ganglion cells mm-2 ; Nissl-stained: average 47,791 total ganglion cells, average peak cell density 1,319 ganglion cells mm-2 ). Ganglion cells fit into three size categories: small (5-20 µm); medium (20-30 µm); large: (? 30 µm), and they were not homogeneously distributed across the retina. There was a dorsally located horizontal visual streak with increased ganglion cell density; additionally, there were approximately three local maxima in ganglion cell distribution (potential areae centrales) within this streak in which densities were highest. Using computerized tomography (CT) and micro-CT, geometrical dimensions of the eye were obtained. Combined with ganglion cell distributions, spatial resolving power was determined to be between 1.21 and 1.37 cycles per degree. Additionally, photoreceptor sizes across different retinal areas varied; photoreceptors were longest within the horizontal visual streak. Variations in the locations of retinal specializations appear to be related to the animal's anatomy: shape of the head and eyes, position of eyes, location of tapetum, and shape of pupil, as well as the visual demands associated with lifestyle and habitat type.

publication date

  • August 15, 2018