A grouped retina provides high temporal resolution in the weakly electric fish Gnathonemus petersii

Pusch R, Kassing V, Riemer U, Wagner H-J, von der Emde G, Engelmann J (2012)
Journal of Physiology, Paris 107(1-2): 84-94.

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Weakly electric fish orient, hunt and communicate by emitting electrical pulses, enabling them to discriminate objects, conspecifics and prey. In addition to the electrosensory modality - although dominating in importance in these fishes - other modalities, like vision, play important roles for survival. The visual system of Gnathonemus petersii, a member of the family mormyridae living in West African blackwater streams shows remarkable specializations: Cone photoreceptors are grouped in bundles within a light reflecting tapetum lucidum, while the rods are also bundled but located at the back within a light-scattering guanine layer. Such an organization does not improve light sensitivity nor does it provide high spatial resolution. Thus, the function of the grouped retinal arrangement for the visual performance of the fish remains unclear. Here we investigated the contrast sensitivity of the temporal transfer properties of the visual system of Gnathonemus. To do so, we analyzed visual evoked potentials in the optic tectum and tested the critical flicker fusion frequency in a behavioral paradigm. Results obtained in Gnathonemus are compared to results obtained with goldfish (Carassius auratus), revealing differences in the filter characteristics of their visual systems: While goldfish responds best to low frequencies, Gnathonemus responds best at higher frequencies. The visual system of goldfish shows characteristics of a low-pass filter while the visual system of Gnathonemus has characteristics of a band-pass filter. Furthermore we show that the visual system of Gnathonemus is more robust towards contrast reduction as compared to the goldfish. The grouped retina might enable Gnathonemus to see large, fast moving objects even under low contrast conditions. Due to the fact that the electric sense is a modality of limited range, it is tempting to speculate that the retinal specialization of Gnathonemus petersii might be advantageous for predator avoidance even when brightness differences are small.
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Pusch R, Kassing V, Riemer U, Wagner H-J, von der Emde G, Engelmann J. A grouped retina provides high temporal resolution in the weakly electric fish Gnathonemus petersii. Journal of Physiology, Paris. 2012;107(1-2):84-94.
Pusch, R., Kassing, V., Riemer, U., Wagner, H. - J., von der Emde, G., & Engelmann, J. (2012). A grouped retina provides high temporal resolution in the weakly electric fish Gnathonemus petersii. Journal of Physiology, Paris, 107(1-2), 84-94.
Pusch, R., Kassing, V., Riemer, U., Wagner, H. - J., von der Emde, G., and Engelmann, J. (2012). A grouped retina provides high temporal resolution in the weakly electric fish Gnathonemus petersii. Journal of Physiology, Paris 107, 84-94.
Pusch, R., et al., 2012. A grouped retina provides high temporal resolution in the weakly electric fish Gnathonemus petersii. Journal of Physiology, Paris, 107(1-2), p 84-94.
R. Pusch, et al., “A grouped retina provides high temporal resolution in the weakly electric fish Gnathonemus petersii”, Journal of Physiology, Paris, vol. 107, 2012, pp. 84-94.
Pusch, R., Kassing, V., Riemer, U., Wagner, H.-J., von der Emde, G., Engelmann, J.: A grouped retina provides high temporal resolution in the weakly electric fish Gnathonemus petersii. Journal of Physiology, Paris. 107, 84-94 (2012).
Pusch, Roland, Kassing, Vanessa, Riemer, Ursula, Wagner, Hans-Joachim, von der Emde, Gerhard, and Engelmann, Jacob. “A grouped retina provides high temporal resolution in the weakly electric fish Gnathonemus petersii”. Journal of Physiology, Paris 107.1-2 (2012): 84-94.
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PMID: 22771549
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