The vertebrates’ retina has a highly conserved laminar organization of 10 alternating nuclear and plexiform layers. Species differences in the retinal specializations, i.e., areas of higher cell density, among the species, represent specific regions of the visual field of higher importance for a better spatial resolution and indicate distinct evolutionary pressures on the structures of the visual system, which can be related to many aspects of the species evolutionary history. In this chapter, we analyzed the density and distribution of cells of the retinal ganglion cell layer (GCL) and estimated the upper limits of the spatial resolving power of 12 species of snakes from the Colubridae family, 6 diurnal and 6 nocturnal, which inhabit different habitats. Our results revealed lower visual acuity in nocturnal species, compared to diurnal, and we observed different types of retinal specialization, horizontal streak, area centralis, or scattered distribution, with higher cell density in different retinal regions, depending on the species. These variations may be related to ecological and behavioral features, such as daily activity pattern, habitat, and substrate preferentially occupied, hunting strategies and diet. This comparative study indicates the complexity of the adaptive strategies of the snakes’ visual system.
Part of the book: Sensory Nervous System