Skip to main content

A Role for the Avian Pectén Oculi in Orientation to the Sun?

  • Conference paper
Animal Migration, Navigation, and Homing

Part of the book series: Proceedings in Life Sciences ((LIFE SCIENCES))


In addition to its well-accepted nutritive role, I propose a function for the pectén that is a synthesis of the views of Griffin (that it might play a role in migration), Menner (that it casts a shadow), and Barlow (that it blocks intraocular light rays scattered from the sun’s image).

New measurements, supported by observations on a scale model, show that the pectén is precisely placed to produce a sharply defined shadow on the field of light scattered within the eye when the sun is imaged on one edge of the retina. The precision of the shadow-casting function becomes evident when one considers the sun’s image as the source of light, rather than direct rays from the sun itself, as Menner had done. The sharp definition of the shadow, its extended linear contour, its proximity to the image of the horizon, and its position within the area of highest retinal resolution would all facilitate precise observation of the sun.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD 44.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  • Barlow, H.B., Ostwald, T.J.: Pectén of the pigeon’s eye as an intra-ocular eye shade. Nature (London) 236, 88–90 (1972)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Dolan, W.W.: A Choice of Sundials. Portland, Ore: Stephen Greene Press, 1975

    Google Scholar 

  • Emlen, S.T.: Migration, navigation and orientation. In: Avian Biology. Vol. V. London — New York: Academic Press, 1975

    Google Scholar 

  • Hoffman, K.: Experimental manipulations of the orientational clock in birds. In: Cold Spring Harbor Symp. Quant. Biol. Vol. 25, 379–388 (1960)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hughes, A.: The distribution of ganglion cells in the cat retina. J, Comp. Neurol. 163, 197 (1975)

    Google Scholar 

  • Matthews, G.V.T.: Bird Navigation. Cambridge: Univ. Press, 1955

    Google Scholar 

  • Menner, E.: Die Bedeutung des Pectén im Auge der Vögel für die Wahrnehmung von Bewegungen. Zool. Jb., Abt. 3 (Allgem, Zool. v, Physiol.) 58, 481–538 (1938)

    Google Scholar 

  • Oyster, C.W.: The analysis of image motion by the rabbit retina. J. Physiol. 199, 613–635 (1968)

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Pettigrew, J.D.: A comparison of the visual field representations in the visual Wulst of Falco and of Tyto, with a note on the evolution of frontal vision. In: Frontiers in Visual Science Cool S., Smith, E. (eds.), Berlin — Heidelberg — New York, Springer, 1978

    Google Scholar 

  • Pettigrew, J.D., Konishi, M.: Neurons selective for orientation and binocular disparity in the visual Wulst of the barn owl (Tyto alba). Science 193, 675–678 (1976a)

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Pettigrew, J.D., Konishi, M.: Effect of monocular deprivation on binocular neurones in the owl’s visual Wulst. Nature (London) 264, 753–754 (1976b)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Steinbach, M.J., Money, K.E.: Eye movements in the great horned owl, Bubo virginianus. Vision Res. 13, 889–890 (1972)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wingstrand, K.G., Munk, O.: The pecten oculi of the pigeon with particular regard to its function. Biol. Skr. Dan. Vid. Selsk, 14, 1–64 (1965)

    Google Scholar 

  • Wood, CA.: The fundus oculi of birds, especially as viewed by the ophthalmoscope. Chicago, Illinois: Lakeside Press, 1917

    Book  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 1978 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

About this paper

Cite this paper

Pettigrew, J.D. (1978). A Role for the Avian Pectén Oculi in Orientation to the Sun?. In: Schmidt-Koenig, K., Keeton, W.T. (eds) Animal Migration, Navigation, and Homing. Proceedings in Life Sciences. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-662-11148-2

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-662-11147-5

  • eBook Packages: Springer Book Archive

Publish with us

Policies and ethics