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Keywords:

  • tectum;
  • auditory-motor pathways;
  • sensorimotor integration

Abstract

The mustache bat, Pteronotus parnellii, depends on echolocation to navigate and capture prey. This adaptation is reflected in the large size and elaboration of brainstem auditory structures and in the minimal development of visual structures. The superior colliculus, usually associated with orienting the eyes, is nevertheless large and well developed in Pteronotus. This observation raises the question of whether the superior colliculus in the echolocating bat has evolved to play a major role in auditory rather than visual orientation. The connections of the superior colliculus in Pteronotus were studied with the aid of anterograde and retrograde transport of wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to HRP. These results indicate that the superior colliculus of Pteronotus is composed almost entirely of the layers beneath stratum opticum. The retinal projection is restricted to a very thin zone just beneath the pial surface. Prominent afferent pathways originate in motor structures, particularly the substantia nigra and the deep nuclei of the cerebellum. Sensory input from the auditory system originates in three brainstem nuclei: the inferior colliculus, the anterolateral periolivary nucleus, and the dorsal nuclei of the lateral lemniscus. The projections from these auditory structures terminate mainly in the central tier of the deep layer. The most prominent efferent pathways are those to medial motor structures of the contralateral brainstem via the predorsal bundle and to the ipsilateral midbrain and pontine tegmentum via the lateral efferent bundle. Ascending projections to the diencephalon are mainly to the medial dorsal nucleus and zona incerta. Thus, the superior colliculus in Pteronotus possesses well-developed anatomical connections that could mediate reflexes for orienting its ears, head, or body toward objects detected by echolocation.