Graduate Fellow

Do retinal specializations reflect ecology? an evolutionary perspective.

PI(s): Bret Moore (Purdue University)
Start Date: 23-Aug-2010
End Date: 10-Dec-2010
Keywords: physiology, database, ecology, morphology, neurobiology

The vertebrate retina is a multi-layered tissue that has photoreceptors whose activation by light is communicated to the brain via retinal ganglion cells. Retinal areas with higher ganglion cell density are considered "retinal specializations", defined as spots in the visual field that confer higher visual acuity. The degree to which phylogeny and ecology account for the evolution of retinal specializations is largely unknown. The specific goals of this project are: (1) compile data on retinal specializations as part of the activities of the “Evolutionary shifts in vertebrate visual ecology and visual system morphology” current NESCent working group; (2) review the literature on retinal specializations in vertebrates to synthesize the knowledge on their functional properties; and (3) investigate ways of analyzing statistically the information compiled from previously published data to conduct in the near future a comparative study on the association between retinal specializations and several ecological factors. This study will (1) make information available to one of the NESCent working groups, (2) produce one review paper at the end of the fellowship (and a comparative study after the fellowship is over) based on previously published data, (3) increase my interaction with scholars at NESCent and other labs, which will enhance my graduate education, and (4) open up a new venue of research in visual ecology and evolutionary biology not envisioned by the NESCent working group by generating a body of hypotheses and predictions on the evolution of retinal specializations for future empirical tests.