Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 159, Issue 4, pp 473–479 | Cite as

Four spectral classes of cone in the retinas of birds

  • De -Mao Chen
  • Timothy H. Goldsmith


The spectral sensitivity of 15 species of birds has been measured by recording transretinal voltages from opened eyecups. With suitable combinations of colored adapting lights, we find that a variety of passerines have four peaks of photopic sensitivity, with maxima at 370, 450, 480, and 570 nm. Additional sensitivity maxima at 510 nm are found in some species. The spectral sensitivity functions are not altered by bathing the retinas in 50 mM sodium aspartate, suggesting that they reflect the properties of cones and do not result from inhibitory interactions between retinal interneurons.

Comparison of the results with a general mathematical model that describes spectral sensitivity functions recorded extracellularly from populations of receptors in different states of adaptation (Goldsmith 1986) shows that the retinal spectral sensitivity functions are consistent with the presence of (at least) four types of cone, but indicate as well that many of the cones that are maximally sensitive in the blue and violet likely contain oil droplets that attenuate the deep violet and near uv.


Sodium Aspartate Mathematical Model Retina Spectral Sensitivity 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • De -Mao Chen
    • 1
  • Timothy H. Goldsmith
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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