Eye structure and amphibious foraging in albatrosses

Anterior eye structure and retinal visual fields were determined in grey–headed and black–browed albatrosses, Diomedea melanophris and D. chrysostoma (Procellariiformes, Diomedeidae), using keratometry and an ophthalmoscopic reflex technique. Results for the two species were very similar and indicate that the eyes are of an amphibious optical design suggesting that albatross vision is well suited to the visual pursuit of active prey both on and below the ocean surface. The corneas are relatively flat (radius ca. 14.5 mm) and hence of low absolute refractive power (ca. 23 dioptres). In air the binocular fields are relatively long (vertical extent ca. 70 °) and narrow (maximum width in the plane of the optic axes 26–32 °), a topography found in a range of bird species that employ visual guidance of bill position when foraging. The cyclopean fields measure approximately 270 ° in the horizontal plane, but there is a 60 ° blind sector above the head owing to the positioning of the eyes below the protruding supraorbital ridges. Upon immersion the monocular fields decrease in width such that the binocular fields are abolished. Anterior eye structure, and visual field topography in both air and water, show marked similarity with those of the Humboldt penguin


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Authors: Martin, G. R.

1 January, 1998
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences / 265
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