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Peak Density and Distribution of Ganglion Cells in the Retinae of Microchiropteran Bats: Implications for Visual Acuity (Part 1 of 2)Pettigrew J.D.a · Dreher B.b · Hopkins C.S.c · McCall M.J.b · Brown M.a
aNeuroscience Laboratory, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Qld; b Department of Anatomy and c School of Biological Sciences, The University of Sydney, NSW, Australia
Wehave estimated the total number, distribution and peak density of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in retinal wholemounts of several species of microchiropteran (echolocating) bats. The estimates are based on counts of Nissl-stained, presumed RGCs. The total number of presumed RGCs varies among the species: from about 4,500 in Rhinolophus rouxi to about 120,000 in Macroderma gigas. In addition, in two species (Nyctophilus gouldi and M. gigas), the estimates are based on counts of positively identified RGCs retrogradely labelled with the enzyme horseradish peroxidase injected into the retinorecipient nuclei. In these two species, the numbers and distributions of retrogradely labelled RGCs and Nissl-stained presumed RGCs are very similar. In all six species studied, the peak-density regions of presumed (or positively identified) RGCs are located in the inferotemporal retinae, and the RGC isodensity lines tend to be horizontally elongated. However, the RGC densities in the high-density regions are only 2–4 times greater than those in the low-density regions in the superior retinae. The somal sizes of RGCs vary from 5 to 16 µm in diameter and are unimodally distributed. There is no indication of the existence of distinct morphological classes of RGCs. The axial lenghts of microchiropteran eyes vary from 1.8 mm in R. rouxi to 7.0 mm in M. gigas. For all species the posterior nodal distance (PND) was assumed to be 0.52 of the axial length of the eye. This assumption is based on the analysis of published data concerning schematic eyes of nocturnal vertebrates. These derived values of the PNDs allowed us to calculate the retinal magnification factors and the number of RGCs per degree of visual angle. From these, the upper limits of visual acuity were derived on the basis of the assumptions of the sampling theorem. The estimated upper limits of visual acuity of the six species of echolocating bats vary from about 0.35 cycles/degree in R. rouxi to about 2 cycles/degree in M. gigas. This range is quite similar to the range of visual acuities in murid rodents.
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