Visual Specializations in Five Sympatric Species of Stingrays from the Family DasyatidaeGarza-Gisholt E. · Kempster R.M. · Hart N.S. · Collin S.P.
School of Animal Biology and UWA Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia, Crawley, W.A., Australia
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The eyes of five ray species (Taeniura lymma, Neotrygon kuhlii, Pastinachus atrus, Himantura uarnak and Urogymnus asperrimus) from the same taxonomic family (Dasyatidae) and the same geographic region (Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia) were studied to identify differences in retinal specializations that may reflect niche specialization. The topographic distributions of photoreceptors (rods and all cones) and ganglion cells were assessed and used to identify localized peaks in cell densities that indicate specializations for acute vision. These data were also used to calculate summation ratios of photoreceptors to ganglion cells in each species and estimate the anatomical spatial resolving power of the eye. Subtle differences in the distribution of retinal neurons appear to be related to the ecology of these closely related species of stingrays. The main specialization in the retinal cell density distribution is the dorsal streak that allows these animals to scan the substrate for potential prey. The blue-spotted fantail ray, T. lymma, showed the highest peak density of rods (86,700 rods mm-2) suggesting a specialization for scotopic vision. The highest peak density of cones (9,970 cones mm-2) was found in H. uarnak, and the highest peak density of ganglion cells (4,500 cells mm-2) was found in P. atrus. The proportion of rods to cones in the dorsal streak was higher in the two smaller species (12.5-14:1 in T. lymma and N. kuhlii) than the larger stingrays (6-8:1 in P. atrus, H. uarnak and U. asperrimus). Visual specializations in different sympatric species are subtle but may reflect specializations to specific ecological niches.
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