Eye Morphology in Cathemeral Lemurids and Other Mammals

University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.
Folia Primatologica (Impact Factor: 0.89). 02/2006; 77(1-2):27-49. DOI: 10.1159/000089694
Source: PubMed


The visual systems of cathemeral mammals are subject to selection pressures that are not encountered by strictly diurnal or nocturnal species. In particular, the cathemeral eye and retina must be able to function effectively across a broad range of ambient light intensities. This paper provides a review of the current state of knowledge regarding the visual anatomy of cathemeral primates, and presents an analysis of the influence of cathemerality on eye morphology in the genus Eulemur. Due to the mutual antagonism between most adaptations for increased visual acuity and sensitivity, cathemeral lemurs are expected to resemble other cathemeral mammals in having eye morphologies that are intermediate between those of diurnal and nocturnal close relatives. However, if lemurs only recently adopted cathemeral activity patterns, then cathemeral lemurids would be expected to demonstrate eye morphologies more comparable to those of nocturnal strepsirrhines. Both predictions were tested through a comparative study of relative cornea size in mammals. Intact eyes were collected from 147 specimens of 55 primate species, and relative corneal dimensions were compared to measurements taken from a large sample of non-primate mammals. These data reveal that the five extant species of the cathemeral genus Eulemur have relative cornea sizes intermediate between those of diurnal and nocturnal strepsirrhines. Moreover, all Eulemur species have relative cornea sizes that are comparable to those of cathemeral non-primate mammals and significantly smaller than those of nocturnal mammals. These results suggest that Eulemur species resemble other cathemeral mammals in having eyes that are adapted to function under variable environmental light levels. These results also suggest that cathemerality is a relatively ancient adaptation in Eulemur that was present in the last common ancestor of the genus (ca. 8-12 MYA).

Full-text preview

Available from:
  • Source
    • "23.3 cpd) than mammals of similar size (e.g., cows[30]). We therefore used the upper acuity limit of that reported for horses for zebra photopic acuity as their eyes are of similar size[39]and they are close relatives. This is based on the assumption that they share similar retinal topographies, one that should be validated by future anatomical studies. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The century-old idea that stripes make zebras cryptic to large carnivores has never been examined systematically. We evaluated this hypothesis by passing digital images of zebras through species-specific spatial and colour filters to simulate their appearance for the visual systems of zebras’ primary predators and zebras themselves. We also measured stripe widths and luminance contrast to estimate the maximum distances from which lions, spotted hyaenas, and zebras can resolve stripes. We found that beyond ca. 50 m (daylight) and 30 m (twilight) zebra stripes are difficult for the estimated visual systems of large carnivores to resolve, but not humans. On moonless nights, stripes are difficult for all species to resolve beyond ca. 9 m. In open treeless habitats where zebras spend most time, zebras are as clearly identified by the lion visual system as are similar-sized ungulates, suggesting that stripes cannot confer crypsis by disrupting the zebra’s outline. Stripes confer a minor advantage over solid pelage in masking body shape in woodlands, but the effect is stronger for humans than for predators. Zebras appear to be less able than humans to resolve stripes although they are better than their chief predators. In conclusion, compared to the uniform pelage of other sympatric herbivores it appears highly unlikely that stripes are a form of anti-predator camouflage.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · PLoS ONE
  • Source
    • "Prior to the dissection of each eyeball, we measured the transverse diameters of both the eye and the cornea along 2 perpendicular planes using digital calipers, as described by Lisney et al. [2012b] [2103b]. These measurements were used to calculate the mean corneal diameter (C), the mean transverse eye diameter (T), and the C:T ratio, a measure of cornea size relative to the total size of the eye [Kirk, 2006]. All of the hummingbird eyes available to us had collapsed due to the loss of internal fluids postmortem [Ritland , 1982; Kirk, 2004]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Hummingbirds are a group of small, highly specialized birds that display a range of adaptations to their nectarivorous lifestyle. Vision plays a key role in hummingbird feeding and hovering behaviours, yet very little is known about the visual systems of these birds. In this study, we measured eye morphology in 5 hummingbird species. For 2 of these species, we used stereology and retinal whole mounts to study the topographic distribution of neurons in the ganglion cell layer. Eye morphology (expressed as the ratio of corneal diameter to eye transverse diameter) was similar among all 5 species and was within the range previously documented for diurnal birds. Retinal topography was similar in Amazilia tzacatl and Calypte anna. Both species had 2 specialized retinal regions of high neuron density: a central region located slightly dorso-nasal to the superior pole of the pecten, where densities reached ∼45,000 cells·mm-2, and a temporal area with lower densities (38,000-39,000 cells·mm-2). A weak visual streak bridged the two high-density areas. A retina from Phaethornis superciliosus also had a central high-density area with a similar peak neuron density. Estimates of spatial resolving power for all 3 species were similar, at approximately 5-6 cycles·degree-1. Retinal cross sections confirmed that the central high-density region in C. anna contains a fovea, but not the temporal area. We found no evidence of a second, less well-developed fovea located close to the temporal retina margin. The central and temporal areas of high neuron density allow for increased spatial resolution in the lateral and frontal visual fields, respectively. Increased resolution in the frontal field in particular may be important for mediating feeding behaviors such as aerial docking with flowers and catching small insects.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · Brain Behavior and Evolution
  • Source
    • "In Madagascar, field studies clearly suggest that the diurnal time budgets of lemurs may be affected by habitat disturbance (Donati et al. 2011; Irwin 2008; Schwitzer et al. 2007a, 2011). This is particularly relevant for species of Eulemur, as these primates, like most ungulates and micro-mammals, do not appear constrained by specialized eye adaptations that would keep their activity limited to either the nocturnal or the diurnal phase (Kirk 2006). However, cathemeral activity has rarely been investigated in relation to habitat disturbance. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The ultimate determinants of cathemerality, i.e., activity spread over the 24-h cycle, in primates have been linked to various ecological factors. Owing to the fast rate of habitat modification, it is imperative to know whether and how this behavioural flexibility responds to anthropogenic disturbance. The true lemurs (Eulemur clade) constitute a valuable case to study these potential effects, as all species studied so far exhibit cathemerality. Here we explored the effects of anthropogenic disturbance on activity patterns of Eulemur while controlling for ecological factors proposed as determinants of activity shifts. We first performed a meta-analysis using 13 long-term studies conducted over the last three decades on various populations of Eulemur. We fitted a beta regression using the proportion of diurnality (the activity taking place between sunrise and sunset) as the response variable and seven climatic, ecological, and anthropogenic disturbance variables at each site as predictors. We also present a validation with original data using year-round, 24-h activity of collared brown lemurs (Eulemur collaris) in forest fragments with different levels of disturbance in southeastern Madagascar. Diurnality was prevalent at most sites. Seasonality, proportions of leaves in the diet, and group size were all found to be significant predictors of the proportion of diurnal activity. After controlling for socioecological factors in the model, overall anthropogenic disturbance emerged as a negative predictor of diurnality. Our validation suggests that the lemurs in the more disturbed area exhibited more nocturnal activity than those in the less disturbed area. It is unclear whether the plasticity observed might allow populations of Eulemur to persist in disturbed areas longer than lemurs with less flexible activity patterns.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · International Journal of Primatology
Show more