• atherinomorpha;
  • retina;
  • photoreceptor;
  • cone density;
  • cone mosaic;
  • regional differences;
  • triple cones;
  • NBT


The outer retinae of adults of 13 atherinomorph species, representing nine different families, were examined by both light and electron microscopy. The retinae were investigated with respect to photoreceptor types, cone densities, and cone patterns. All data were composed to eye maps. This procedure allows an interspecific comparison of the regional differences within the outer retina among these shallow-water fish. Furthermore, for a more detailed pattern analysis nitro-blue tetrazolium chloride- (NBT)-stainings in the retina of Melanotaenia maccullochi are presented. Apart from rods, eight morphologically different cone types could be identified: short, intermediate, and long single cones, double cones (equal and unequal), triple cones (triangular and linear), and in Ameca splendens one quadruple cone. Dimensions and occurrence of photoreceptors vary among the respective species and within the retinal regions. In the light-adapted state, the cones are arranged in highly ordered mosaics. Five different cone tessellation types were found: row patterns, twisted row patterns, square patterns, pentagonal patterns, and, exclusively in Belone belone, a hexagonal pattern. In Melanotaenia maccullochi the different spectral photoreceptor classes correspond well with the distribution of morphological photoreceptor classes within the mosaic. Double cone density maxima together with a highly ordered cone arrangement usually occur in the nasal and/or ventral to ventrotemporal retina. In most of the species that were examined these high-density regions are presumed to process visual stimuli from the assumed main directions of vision, which mainly depend on feeding behavior and predator pressure. Our findings are discussed with respect to the variable behavioral and visual ecology and phylogeny of the respective species. J. Morphol. 257:270–288, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.