Retinal anatomy and visual performance in a diurnal cone-rich laboratory rodent, the Nile grass rat (Arvicanthis niloticus)

J Comp Neurol. 2008 Oct 10;510(5):525-38. doi: 10.1002/cne.21798.


Unlike laboratory rats and mice, muridae of the Arvicanthis family (A. ansorgei and A. niloticus) are adapted to functioning best in daylight. To date, they have been used as experimental models mainly in studies of circadian rhythms. However, recent work aimed at optimizing photoreceptor-directed gene delivery vectors (Khani et al. [2007] Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 48:3954-3961) suggests their potential usefulness for studying retinal pathologies and therapies. In the present study we analyzed the retinal anatomy and visual performance of the Nile grass rat (A. niloticus) using immunohistofluorescence and the optokinetic response (OKR). We found that approximately 35-40% of photoreceptors are cones; that many neural features of the inner retina are similar to those in other diurnal mammals; and that spatial acuity, measured by the OKR, is more than two times that of the usual laboratory rodents. These observations are consistent with the known diurnal habits of this animal, and further support its pertinence as a complementary model for studies of structure, function, and pathology in cone-rich mammalian retinae.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Female
  • Male
  • Muridae* / anatomy & histology
  • Muridae* / physiology
  • Retina / anatomy & histology*
  • Retina / physiology
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / cytology
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Visual Acuity / physiology*


  • Biomarkers