Aerial and aquatic visual acuity of the grey bichir Polypterus senegalus, as estimated by optokinetic response

J Fish Biol. 2019 Jul;95(1):263-273. doi: 10.1111/jfb.13724. Epub 2018 Nov 21.


The present study assessed the aerial and aquatic visual abilities of juvenile grey bichir Polypterus senegalus, fish capable of terrestrial locomotion, by measuring the optokinetic response to stimuli of varying speed and spatial frequency. In water, fish tracked slow-moving (2° s-1 ) stimuli moderately well and fast-moving stimuli very poorly. Spatial acuity was very low compared with many other species, with maximum response observed at 0.05-0.075 stimulus cycles per degree of visual arc; however, it should be noted that adult fish, with their larger eyes, are likely to have somewhat improved spatial acuity. Low spatial acuity and limited stimulus tracking ability might be expected in a nocturnal ambush predator such as P. senegalus, where gaze stabilization may be less crucial and other sensory inputs may have greater importance in perception of the environment. In air, spatial and temporal acuity were both poorer by every measure, but some visual ability persisted. As the eye shows no anatomical specialization for aerial vision, poor vision was expected; however, the large decrease in saccade velocity observed in air trials was unexpected. Stimulus parameters typically have little effect on the characteristics of the saccade, so this finding may suggest that the function of the reflex system itself could be compromised in the aerial vision of some fishes capable of terrestrial locomotion.

Keywords: Amphibious fishes; optokinetic response; spatial resolution; temporal resolution; visual acuity.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Locomotion
  • Saccades
  • Visual Acuity*