Visual pigments, cone oil droplets, ocular media and predicted spectral sensitivity in the domestic turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

N. S. Hart*, J. C. Partridge, I. C. Cuthill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


A microspectrophotometric survey conducted on the retinal photoreceptors of the domestic turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) revealed the presence of five different types of vitamin A1-based visual pigment (rhodopsin) in seven different types of photoreceptor. A single class of rod contained a medium wavelength-sensitive visual pigment (wavelength of maximum absorbance, λ(max), 504 nm). Four different types of single cone contained visual pigment maximally sensitive to wavelengths in either the long (LWS, λ(max) 564 nm), medium (MWS, λ(max) 505 nm), short (SWS, λ(max) 460 nm) or violet (VS, λ(max) 420 nm) spectral ranges. The LWS, MWS and SWS single cones contained pigmented oil droplets with cut-off wavelengths (λ(cut)) at 514, 490 and 437 nm, respectively. The VS single cone contained a transparent oil droplet which displayed no significant absorbance above 330 nm. A single class of double cone was also identified, both the principal and accessory members of which contained the LWS cone visual pigment. The principal member contained an oil droplet with a λ(cut) at 436 nm. No oil droplet was observed in the accessory member. The use of a glycerol-based cell mountant, which reduced wavelength dependent measurement artefacts in the microspectrophotometric measurements, is described. Predictions of cone effective spectral sensitivity, incorporating measurements of the spectral transmission of the ocular media, suggest that turkeys have considerable sensitivity to wavelengths in the ultraviolet-A (UV-A, 315-400 nm) spectral range. This has implications for both the visual ecology of wild birds and the welfare of intensively farmed individuals. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3321-3328
Number of pages8
JournalVision Research
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Microspectrophotometry
  • Ocular media
  • Oil droplet
  • Turkey
  • Visual pigment


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