The vertebrate retina first evolved some 500 million years ago in ancestral marine chordates. Since then, the eyes of different species have been tuned to best support their unique visuoecological lifestyles. Visual specializations in eye designs, large-scale inhomogeneities across the retinal surface and local circuit motifs mean that all species' retinas are unique. Computational theories, such as the efficient coding hypothesis, have come a long way towards an explanation of the basic features of retinal organization and function; however, they cannot explain the full extent of retinal diversity within and across species. To build a truly general understanding of vertebrate vision and the retina's computational purpose, it is therefore important to more quantitatively relate different species' retinal functions to their specific natural environments and behavioural requirements. Ultimately, the goal of such efforts should be to build up to a more general theory of vision.