Longitudinal chromatic aberration and emmetropization: results from the chicken eye

J Physiol. 1992 Apr:449:363-76. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1992.sp019090.


1. Due to the chromatic dispersion of the ocular media, the focal length of the optics of the eye is about 3 diopters longer for red light than for blue light. Because emmetropization in the chicken (Gallus domesticus) does not require colour cues and operates properly in monochromatic light, one can, therefore, expect that chickens raised in red light become more myopic (with longer eyes) than chicks raised in short wavelength light. Prior to conducting this experiment, we matched the brightness of both light conditions by means of flicker electroretinograms such that equiluminance was obtained for the chickens. 2. Unexpectedly, refractive development was not different from controls in white light for either red or near-ultraviolet light. 3. We tested whether the visual mechanisms guiding refractive development were still sensitive to defocus under both illuminations by treating the chicks with spectacle lenses. 4. Similar to a previous experiment in white light, the growth of the eye in red light also changed such that it compensated for the imposed defocus. It failed to do so, however, in near-ultraviolet light. 5. A histological analysis of the sampling intervals for the ultraviolet receptor system revealed that its spatial resolving power was too low to detect the defocus imposed by the lenses, whereas the long wavelength receptors provided sufficiently good visual acuity. 6. The results show that, during emmetropization, the chicken eye elegantly bypasses the problem of multiple chromatic focal planes by having a low sensitivity to defocus in the blue end of the spectrum. Because the chromatic dispersion function is steep in the blue range but flat at the red end of the spectrum, the remaining chromatic defocus in the spectral range of high visual acuity is low and may match the depth of field of the eye.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chickens / physiology
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Eye / growth & development
  • Light*
  • Refraction, Ocular*