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Abstract

Development of the retina of the ammocoete begins early in embryogenesis, with the formation of the optic vesicle, but development of the rudimentary eye is suspended and remains arrested during larval life. Prior to the onset of metamorphosis, the retina of the ammocoete is completely undifferentiated, with the exception of a small area (Zone II) surrounding the optic nerve head, where all of the adult retinal layers are found. The photoreceptors in this area have developed to include synaptic contacts as well as inner and outer segments. The pigment epithelium in this area, too, has differentiated to include well-formed melanin granules, myeloid bodies and endoplasmic reticulum and is closely associated with the receptor cell outer segments. With the approach of metamorphosis, differentiation of the remainder of the retina (Zone I) begins, taking place in a radial fashion from the optic nerve head. Differentiating pigment epithelial cells adjacent to the differentiated retinal zone begin to accumulate melanin granules. In the neural retina, junctional complexes are established in the form of an external limiting membrane, and connecting cilia project into the optic ventricle. Photoreceptor differentiation begins with the formation of a mitochondria-filled ellipsoid within the inner segment.

Development and differentiation of the ammocoete retina is unique to vertebrates in that only a small area of differentiated retina is present during the larval stage. The remainder of the retina differentiates and becomes functional during metamorphosis.