Retinal Structure and Visual Acuity in a Polyprotodont Marsupial, the Fat-Tailed Dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata)

C. Arrese, Sarah Dunlop, A.M. Harman, C.R. Braekevelt, W.M. Ross, Julia Shand, Lyn Beazley

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43 Citations (Scopus)


The visual system of the fat-tailed dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata), a small polyprotodont marsupial, has been examined both anatomically and behaviourally. The ganglion cell layer was examined in cresyl-violet stained wholemounts and found to contain a mean of 81,400 ganglion cells (SD +/- 3,360); the identification of ganglion cells was supported by a correspondence to optic axon counts. Ganglion cells were distributed as a mid-temporally situated area centralis, embedded in a pronounced visual streak. Localised implants of horseradish peroxidase into retinal wholemounts revealed both A-type and B-type horizontal cells. Sections of the outer retina showed it to be rod-dominated, with a rod-to-cone ratio of 40:1 at the area centralis; cones were found to contain oil droplets but double cones were not a prominent feature. The retinal pigment epithelium consisted of squamous cells, Visual acuity, estimated from counts of peak ganglion cell density (8,300/mm(2), SD +/- 1,180) and measurements of posterior nodal distance (2.9 mm), was found to be 2.30 cycles per degree. The value was close to that of 2.36 cycles per degree estimated by behavioural tests using a Mitchell jumping stand; values were similar at low, intermediate and high light levels. Our findings are discussed in relation to the lifestyle of the dunnart.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-126
JournalBrain Behavior and Evolution
Publication statusPublished - 1999


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