Features of visual function in the naked mole-rat Heterocephalus glaber
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- Hetling, J.R., Baig-Silva, M.S., Comer, C.M. et al. J Comp Physiol A (2005) 191: 317. doi:10.1007/s00359-004-0584-6
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The eyes and visual capacity of the naked mole-rat, Heterocephalus glaber, a subterranean rodent, were evaluated using anatomical, biochemical, and functional assays, and compared to other rodents of similar body size (mouse and gerbil). The eye is small compared to mouse, yet possesses cornea, lens, and retina with typical mammalian organization. The optic nerve cross-sectional area and fiber density are ~10% and ~50% that of gerbil, respectively. Levels per unit retinal area of 11-cis and all-trans retinal, derivatives of vitamin A associated with the visual cycle, are comparable to mouse. The corneal electroretinogram (ERG) exhibits early and late negative components that scale with flash strength; raising the body temperature of this poikilothermic animal from 30°C (normal for H. glaber ) to 37°C (normal for mouse) revealed an ERG response with typically mammalian features, but greatly attenuated and with slower kinetics. Leaving the nest chamber was a behavior correlated with light onset displayed preferentially by breeding females. Optical models of five mole-rat eyes suggest reasonable, but variable, image formation at the retina, possibly related to age. Results are consistent with amorphous light detection, possibly useful for circadian entrainment or escape behavior in the event of tunnel breeches.