Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 307–322

Ontogenetic changes in retinal structure and visual acuity: a comparative study of coral-reef teleosts with differing post-settlement lifestyles

  • Julia Shand

DOI: 10.1023/A:1007353003066

Cite this article as:
Shand, J. Environmental Biology of Fishes (1997) 49: 307. doi:10.1023/A:1007353003066


Changes in retinal structure during settlement were investigated in four species of tropical reef-associated teleost fishes with differing periods of planktonic duration and post-settlement lifestyles. They were: Apogon doederleini (Apogonidae), a nocturnal planktivore; Stethojulis strigiventer (Labridae), a diurnal microcarnivore; Upeneus tragula (Mullidae), a carnivore which uses chin barbels to disturb invertebrates from the sediment; and Pomacentrus moluccensis (Pomacentridae), a diurnal herbivorous planktivore. The densities of cones, rods, cells in the inner nuclear layer and cells in the ganglion cell layer were estimated in a size range of each species. Visual acuity was calculated using cone densities and lens diameter. The ontogenetic sequence of changes in cell density was similar in all species but interspecific variation in the timing and rates of change was found and could be related to lifestyle. For example, cone densities decreased and rod densities increased most rapidly in the nocturnal species, A. doederleini, during settlement. In contrast, high cone densities were maintained in the species adopting a diurnal lifestyle. Theoretical visual acuity was found to increase rapidly as lens size increased, but was similar for all species at similar lens sizes, indicating the importance of larger eye size as a means for improving resolution during early stages of eye growth. It was concluded that for the species undergoing abrupt lifestyle changes at settlement, structural re-organisation of the retina is important for the survival of the fish as they leave the pelagic environment and take up their reef-associated lifestyle.

photoreceptorsontogenyfishesApogon doederleiniStethojulis strigiventerUpeneus tragulaPomacentrus moluccensis

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia Shand
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Marine BiologyJames Cook University of North QueenslandTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of Western AustraliaNedlandsAustralia