Structure and function of regional specializations in the vertebrate retina

B.A. Moore, L.P. Tyrell, J.M. Kamilar, Shaun Collin, N.J. Dominy, M.I. Hall, C.P. Heesy, T.J. Lisney, E.R. Loew, G.L. Moritz, S.S. Nava, E. Warrant, Kara Shaw, E. Fernandez-Juricic

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Visual sensory demands vary substantially across vertebrates. Different visual sensory components have evolved to meet these sensory demands and enhance visual behavioral performance. One of these components is the retinal specialization, which is a portion of the retina with generally high ganglion cell densities, which increase spatial resolving power. Retinal specializations are relevant from a functional perspective because animals can align these “acute zones” with objects of interest within a localized region of their visual space, consequently affecting different behavioral dimensions. In this chapter, we reviewed the different types of retinal specializations found in vertebrates (retinal area, fovea, visual streak, radial anisotropy, area gigantocellularis) by discussing the different hypotheses proposed over decades to explain their function. Empirical tests on the functional properties of these different retinal specializations have been limited, which constrains our ability to understand the functional evolution of the vertebrate eye. We derive specific predictions from each of the hypotheses put forward to identify their degree of overlap. Finally, we provide some future directions as to how to test these functional hypotheses by integrating physiological and behavioral approaches. Testing these functional hypotheses will enhance our understanding of the relationship between the eye and the physical environment, and ultimately the visual ecology of vertebrates.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvolution of nervous systems
Subtitle of host publicationThe evolution of the nervous systems in nonmammalian vertebrates
EditorsJon H. Kaas, Georg Striedter
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
PublisherAcademic Press
ISBN (Print)9780128040423
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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