Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 212, Issue 3–4, pp 359–369 | Cite as

The pretectal nuclei in two monotremes: the short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) and the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)

  • K. W. S. AshwellEmail author
  • G. Paxinos
Original Article


We have examined the organization of the pretectal area in two monotremes (the short beaked echidna—Tachyglossus aculeatus, and the platypus—Ornithorhynchus anatinus) and compared it to that in the Wistar strain rat, using Nissl staining in conjunction with enzyme histochemistry (acetylcholinesterase and NADPH diaphorase) and immunohistochemistry for parvalbumin, calbindin, calretinin and non-phosphorylated neurofilament protein (SMI-32 antibody). We were able to identify distinct anterior, medial, posterior (now called tectal gray) and olivary pretectal nuclei as well as a nucleus of the optic tract, all with largely similar topographical and chemoarchitectonic features to the homologous regions in therian mammals. The positions of these pretectal nuclei correspond to the distributions of retinofugal terminals identified by other authors. The overall size of the pretectum in both monotremes was found to be at least comparable in size, if not larger than, the pretectum of representative therian mammals of similar brain and body size. Our findings suggest that the pretectum of these two monotreme species is comparable in both size and organization to that of eutherian mammals, and is more than just an undifferentiated area pretectalis. The presence of a differentiated pretectum with similar chemoarchitecture to therians in both living monotremes lends support to the idea that the stem mammal for both prototherian and therian lineages also had a differentiated pretectum. This in turn indicates that a differentiated pretectum appeared at least 125 million years ago in the mammalian lineage and that the stem mammal for proto- and eutherian lineages probably had similar pretectal nuclei to those identified in its descendants.


Acetylcholinesterase Non-phosphorylated neurofilament protein Parvalbumin Calbindin Calretinin 



We would like to thank Dr. Craig Hardman, Dr. Maria Hassiotis, Dr. Luan ling Zhang and Dr. Hong qin Wang for their assistance with processing of the tissue used in the present study. This study was supported in part by a grant from the Australian Research Council (Grant No. A09917168).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anatomy, School of Medical SciencesThe University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Prince of Wales Medical Research InstituteThe University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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