Colour vision and visual ecology of the blue-spotted maskray, Dasyatis kuhlii Müller & Henle, 1814

Susan M. Theiss*, Thomas J. Lisney, Shaun P. Collin, Nathan S. Hart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


Relatively little is known about the physical structure and ecological adaptations of elasmobranch sensory systems. In particular, elasmobranch vision has been poorly studied compared to the other senses. Virtually nothing is known about whether elasmobranchs possess multiple cone types, and therefore the potential for colour vision, or how the spectral tuning of their visual pigments is adapted to their different lifestyles. In this study, we measured the spectral absorption of the rod and cone visual pigments of the blue-spotted maskray, Dasyatis kuhlii, using microspectrophotometry. D. kuhlii possesses a rod visual pigment with a wavelength of maximum absorbance (λ max) at 497 nm and three spectrally distinct cone types with λmax values at 476, 498 and 552 nm. Measurements of the spectral transmittance of the ocular media reveal that wavelengths below 380 nm do not reach the retina, indicating that D. kuhlii is relatively insensitive to ultraviolet radiation. Topographic analysis of retinal ganglion cell distribution reveals an area of increased neuronal density in the dorsal retina. Based on peak cell densities and using measurements of lens focal length made using laser ray tracing and sections of frozen eyes, the estimated spatial resolving power of D. kuhlii is 4.10 cycles per degree.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-79
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Elasmobranch
  • Ganglion cell topography
  • Microspectrophotometry
  • Ocular media
  • Visual pigment


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