Retinal specialisations in the dogfish Centroscymnus coelolepis from the Mediterranean deep-sea
Keywords:deep-sea shark, retinal morphology, retinal topography, large ganglion cells, visual axes, diet
The present work attempted to study the importance of vision in Centroscymnuscoelolepis, the most abundant shark in the Mediterranean beyond a depthof 1000 m, by using anatomical and histological data. C.coelolepis exhibited large lateral eyes with a large pupil, spherical lens and a tapetum lucidum that gave the eye a strong greenish-golden “eye shine”. In the outer retinal layer, a uniform population of rod-like photoreceptors was observed while in the vitreal retina a thick inner plexiform layer comprised up to 30% of the whole retinal thickness. The cell distribution of the ganglion cell layer formed a thin elongated visual streak in the central plane of the eye that provided a horizontal panoramic field of view. A specialised area of higher visual acuity was located caudally at 32-44º from the geometric centre of the retina and 5-10º above the horizontal plane of the eye. This position indicated that the visual axis pointed in a slightly outward-forward direction with respect to the fish body axis. A non-uniform distribution of large ganglion cells was also found in the horizontal plane of the retina that practically coincided with the distribution of the total cell population in the ganglion cell layer. This is the first time that this type of retinal specialisation has been observed in the elasmobranchs. These characteristics indicate that the retina of C.coelolepis is designed not only to increase sensitivity in the horizontal field of view, as was also observed in other sharks, but also to improve motion detection in the same plane. The visual capacities evolved by C.coelolepis make this species adapted for discriminating the horizontal gradation of light that exists in the mesopelagic environment. Similarly, the large ganglion cell distribution observed in its retina seems to be related to its predatory behaviour, since it allows this shark to perceive the movement of bioluminescent prey against a totally dark background.
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