Photoreceptors in skate are arranged to allow for a broad horizontal field of view. uri icon


  • Studying retinal specializations offers insights into eye functionality and visual ecology. Using light microscopic techniques, including retinal whole-mounts, we investigated photoreceptor densities in the retina of the skate Leucoraja erinacea. We show that photoreceptors are not sized or oriented in the same way, and that they are not evenly distributed across the retina. There was a dorsally located horizontal visual streak with increased photoreceptor density, with additional local maxima in which densities were highest. Photoreceptors were longest and thinnest inside this visual streak, becoming shorter and thicker toward the periphery and toward the ventral retina. Furthermore, in the peripheral retinal parts, photoreceptors (particularly the outer segments) were noticeably tilted with respect to the retinal long axis. In order to understand how photoreceptors are tilted inside the eye, we used computerized tomography (CT) and micro-CT, to obtain geometrical dimensions of the whole skate eye. These CT/micro-CT data provided us with the outlines of the skate eye and the location of the retina and this enabled us to reconstruct how photoreceptors tilt in an intact eye. Findings were analyzed relative to previously published ganglion cell distributions in this species, showing a posteriorly located retinal area with photoreceptor: ganglion cell convergence as low as 39:1. Some peripheral areas showed ratios as high as 391:1. We frame our findings in terms of the animal's anatomy: body and eye shape, specifically the location of the tapetum, as well as the visual demands associated with lifestyle and habitat type. A speculative function in polarization sensitivity is discussed.

publication date

  • August 25, 2020