Visual and lenticular pigments in the eyes of demersal deep-sea fishes

R. H. Douglas, J. C. Partridge, A. J. Hope

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34 Citations (Scopus)


We report on the lens pigmentation and visual pigments of 52 species of demersal deep-sea fishes caught at depths ranging from 480 m to 4110 m in the Porcupine Seabight and Goban Spur area of the North-eastern Atlantic. Only one species, caught between 480 and 840 m, had a lens with large amounts of pigment, consistent with the hypothesis that heavily pigmented lenses in deep-sea fish serve to enhance the contrast of bioluminescent signals by removing much of the background radiance, which is only visible to fish living shallower than 1000 m. Low concentrations of lens pigmentation were also observed in a further two species (Rouleina attrita and Micromesisteus poutassou). The retinae of all species except five, contained only a single visual pigment, as determined by microspectrophotometry of individual rods, and/or spectrophotometry of retinal wholemounts and retinal extracts. Those fishes caught between 500 m and 1100 m had wavelengths of peak sensitivity (λmax) ranging from 476 nm to 494 nm, while most fish living below 1100 m tended to be more 'conservative' with (λmax) values ranging from 475 nm to 485 nm. The only exceptions to this were three deep-living species caught between 1600 m and 2000 m whose retinae contain abnormally short-wave sensitive visual pigments (Cataetyx laticeps - λmax 468 nm; Alepocephalus bairdii - λmax 467 nm; Narcetes stomias λmax 472 nm), suggesting adaptation for the detection of short-wave bioluminescence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-122
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 1995
Externally publishedYes


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