• tapetum;
  • pygmy sperm whale;
  • bottlenose dolphin;
  • Kogia breviceps;
  • Tursiops truncatus;
  • dielectric reflector


The pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) and the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) are equipped with a tapetum fibrosum and, with other Cetacea, are the only carnivores known to possess this typically ungulate tapetal type. Tapeta from two regions of a retina, each with a different spectral reflectance (blue and green), were found to have significantly different fibrillar diameters and inter-fibrillar spacing. When the measured values are applied to a dielectric reflector model, the predicted wavelengths agree with the observed reflectance of the flat-mounted tapeta. The spatial properties of the fibrils change progressively from the tapetal origin in the fibroblast layer to the pigment epithelium, suggesting that different wavelengths may be reflected systematically with tapetal depth. The very large number of reflecting layers characterizing these tapeta, relative to those of other carnivores, may provide for increased spectral purity and efficiency.