Distribution of photoreceptor types in the retina of a marsupial, the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii)

Jan M. Hemmi, Ulrike Grünert

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61 Citations (Scopus)


Mammalian retinae generally contain low numbers of short-wavelength-sensitive cones (S-cones) and higher numbers of middle- to long-wavelength-sensitive cones (M-cones). Some recent studies found topographic differences between the different photoreceptor types and in some instances between photoreceptors and ganglion cells. To investigate this question further, we constructed topographical maps of the different photoreceptors found in an Australian marsupial, the tammar wallaby. We used two polyclonal antibodies that have been shown to label S-cones (JH455) or M-cones (JH492) in a range of mammals. In the tammar wallaby, the antisera clearly distinguish two cone types. JH455 recognizes a small subset of cones (S-cones) with a density of less than 500 cells/mm2 in the ventral retina. Their density increases towards the dorsal retina to about 1600-2000 cells/mm2. JH492 recognizes all remaining cones (M-cones), but also faintly labels most cone cells recognized by JH455. The distribution of M-cones, unlike that of the S-cones, shows a clear horizontal streak of high cell density through the central retina, just like the ganglion cells. Unlike the ganglion cells, however, the M-cones do not peak in the temporal retina but show a very broad peak (12,000-18,000 cells/mm2) in the central or even slightly nasal retina. Based on our findings, the retina of the tammar can be divided into three distinct regions: firstly, the dorsal retina, which has a low ganglion and low cone cell density but a high percentage of S-cones (30%), is thought to provide good spectral sensitivity; secondly, the central horizontal band of retina, which has a high ganglion and high cone cell density and therefore provides good spatial resolution; and thirdly, the ventral retina, which has a low ganglion cell but high cone cell density with few S-cones (5%) and is therefore thought to have a high contrast sensitivity but low acuity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-302
Number of pages12
JournalVisual Neuroscience
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


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