First evidence of diversity in eutherian chiasmatic architecture: tree shrews, like marsupials, have spatially segregated crossed and uncrossed chiasmatic pathways

J Comp Neurol. 1998 Jan 12;390(2):183-93. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1096-9861(19980112)390:2<183::aid-cne2>;2-y.


In the optic chiasm of mammals, axons either cross the midline to the opposite side of the brain or remain uncrossed. In the eutherian species studied to date, uncrossed axons in the caudal nerve are found in all regions. In the chiasm, they are dispersed through the hemichiasm, with many axons approaching the midline and then turning back to enter the same side of the brain as the originating eye. In marsupials, by contrast, uncrossed axons never approach the midline; instead, they remain grouped in the lateral nerve and chiasm. The impression gained from these data is that there is a major difference in chiasmatic architecture between eutherian and marsupial mammals. Therefore, the mechanisms by which axons choose their route through the chiasm was also thought to differ between the two major groups of mammals. However, the present study shows that the chiasm of a highly visual eutherian mammal, the tree shrew, is similar to that found in marsupials, with uncrossed axons confined to lateral regions and not approaching the midline. However, unlike marsupials, in the tree shrew, optic fascicles in the chiasm are often separated by thick collagen bundles. It is probable that the chiasmatic structure described to date for eutherian mammals is not ubiquitous, as was previously thought, and theories explaining the mechanisms by which axons chose their route through the chiasm during development will have to be expanded.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Marsupialia / physiology*
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Optic Chiasm / physiology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / ultrastructure
  • Shrews / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*