Relative eye size in elasmobranchs

Brain Behav Evol. 2007;69(4):266-79. doi: 10.1159/000100036. Epub 2007 Feb 21.


Variation in relative eye size was investigated in a sample of 46 species of elasmobranch, 32 species of sharks and 14 species of batoids (skates and rays). To get a measure of eye size relative to body size, eye axial diameter was scaled with body mass using least-squares linear regression, using both raw species data, where species are treated as independent data points, and phylogenetically independent contrasts. Residual values calculated for each species, using the regression equations describing these scaling relationships, were then used as a measure of relative eye size. Relative and absolute eye size varies considerably in elasmobranchs, although sharks have significantly relatively larger eyes than batoids. The sharks with the relatively largest eyes are oceanic species; either pelagic sharks that move between the epipelagic (0-200 m) and 'upper' mesopelagic (200-600 m) zones, or benthic and benthopelagic species that live in the mesopelagic (200-1,000 m) and, to a lesser extent, bathypelagic (1,000-4,000 m) zones. The elasmobranchs with the relatively smallest eyes tend to be coastal, often benthic, batoids and sharks. Active benthopelagic and pelagic species, which prey on active, mobile prey also have relatively larger eyes than more sluggish, benthic elasmobranchs that feed on more sedentary prey such as benthic invertebrates. A significant positive correlation was found between absolute eye size and relative eye size, but some very large sharks, such as Carcharodon carcharias have absolutely large eyes, but have relatively small eyes in relation to body mass.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Size
  • Eye / anatomy & histology*
  • Least-Squares Analysis
  • Linear Models
  • Organ Size
  • Sharks / anatomy & histology*
  • Skates, Fish / anatomy & histology*