The spatial arrangement of cones in the primate fovea

Nature. 1992 Dec 17;360(6405):677-9. doi: 10.1038/360677a0.


The retinae of Old World primates contain three classes of light-sensitive cone, which exhibit peak absorption in different spectral regions. But how are the different types of cone arranged in the hexagonal mosaic of the fovea? This question has often been answered with artists' impressions, but never with direct measurements. Staining for antibodies specific to the short-wave photopigment has revealed a sparse, semiregular array of cones; but nothing is known about the arrangement of the more numerous long- and middle-wave cones. Are they randomly distributed, with chance aggregations of one type, as Hartridge postulated in these columns nearly 50 years ago? Or do they exhibit a regular alteration, recalling the systematic mosaics seen in some non-mammalian species? Or, conversely, is there positive clumping of particular cone types, as might be expected if local patches of cones were descended from a single precursor cell? We have made direct microspectrophotometric measurements of patches of foveal retina from Old World monkeys, and report here that the distribution of long- and middle-wave cones is locally random. These two cone types are present in almost equal numbers, and not in the ratio of 2:1 that has been postulated for the human fovea.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cercopithecus / anatomy & histology*
  • Fovea Centralis / anatomy & histology*
  • Infrared Rays
  • Photoreceptor Cells / anatomy & histology*
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology
  • Retina / anatomy & histology
  • Retina / physiology
  • Rod Cell Outer Segment / physiology
  • Rod Cell Outer Segment / ultrastructure
  • Television