The development of eye movements in the zebrafish (Danio rerio)

Dev Psychobiol. 1997 Dec;31(4):267-76. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1098-2302(199712)31:4<267::aid-dev4>;2-p.


We investigated the development of oculomotor activity in zebrafish embryos and larvae of ages 48-96 hrs postfertilization (hpf). The optokinetic response (OKR: smooth tracking movements evoked by a rotating striped drum) improved steadily after its onset at 73 hpf, and by 96 hpf had a achieved a gain (eye velocity/drum velocity) of 0.9, comparable to adult performance. Reset movements (the fast phase of optokinetic nystagmus) developed over 75-81 hpf. The vestibuloocular reflex (VOR: compensatory eye movements evoked by passive rotation of the head) developed over 74-81 hpf, and the associated reset movements, over 76-81 hpf. The VOR was qualitatively normal in dark-reared fish, which excludes an essential role for visual experience in its early development. Spontaneous saccadic movements (the fast shift of eye position) appeared between 81 and 96 hpf, and at 96 hpf had maximum velocities that were comparable to adults. These results are compared to, and found to be incompatible with, two earlier ideas of motor development: behavioral "differentiation" and "encephalization."

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Larva / physiology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Nystagmus, Optokinetic / physiology
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Zebrafish / embryology*
  • Zebrafish / physiology