Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 194, Issue 3, pp 267–282 | Cite as

Relative Wulst volume is correlated with orbit orientation and binocular visual field in birds

  • Andrew N. IwaniukEmail author
  • Christopher P. Heesy
  • Margaret I. Hall
  • Douglas R. W. Wylie
Original Paper


In mammals, species with more frontally oriented orbits have broader binocular visual fields and relatively larger visual regions in the brain. Here, we test whether a similar pattern of correlated evolution is present in birds. Using both conventional statistics and modern comparative methods, we tested whether the relative size of the Wulst and optic tectum (TeO) were significantly correlated with orbit orientation, binocular visual field width and eye size in birds using a large, multi-species data set. In addition, we tested whether relative Wulst and TeO volumes were correlated with axial length of the eye. The relative size of the Wulst was significantly correlated with orbit orientation and the width of the binocular field such that species with more frontal orbits and broader binocular fields have relatively large Wulst volumes. Relative TeO volume, however, was not significant correlated with either variable. In addition, both relative Wulst and TeO volume were weakly correlated with relative axial length of the eye, but these were not corroborated by independent contrasts. Overall, our results indicate that relative Wulst volume reflects orbit orientation and possibly binocular visual field, but not eye size.


Evolution Wulst Optic tectum Binocularity Eye size 



Nucleus geniculatus lateralis, pars dorsalis


Nucleus geniculatus lateralis, pars ventralis


Apical hyperpallium


Densocellular part of the hyperpallium


Interstitial part of the hyperpallium


Intercalated part of the hyperpallium


Lateral geniculate nucleus


Primary somatosensory cortex


Optic tectum


Primary visual cortex





We wish to thank Healesville Sanctuary, Springvale Veterinary Clinic, Bishop Museum, National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC) and American Museum of Natural History for providing us with access to specimens. Funding for this study was provided to ANI from the Alberta Ingenuity Fund and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), to MIH and CPH from the Jurassic Foundation and to DRWW from NSERC and Canada Research Chairs Program. All of the research reported herein was performed in accordance with the “Principles of animal care”, publication No. 86–23, revised 1985 of the National Institute of Health and with the Canadian Council for Animal Care regulations.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew N. Iwaniuk
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christopher P. Heesy
    • 2
  • Margaret I. Hall
    • 3
  • Douglas R. W. Wylie
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of AnatomyMidwestern UniversityGlendaleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biomedical SciencesMidwestern UniversityGlendaleUSA
  4. 4.Centre for NeuroscienceUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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