Retinal Ganglion Cell Topography and Spatial Resolving Power in Echolocating and Non-Echolocating Bats

Clément Cechetto, Fanny de Busserolles, Lasse Jakobsen, Eric J. Warrant

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Bats are nocturnal mammals known for their ability to echolocate, yet all bats can see, and most bats of the family Pteropodidae (fruit bats) do not echolocate - instead they rely mainly on vision and olfaction to forage. We investigated whether echolocating bats, given their limited reliance on vision, have poorer spatial resolving power (SRP) than pteropodids and whether tongue click echolocating fruit bats differ from non-echolocating fruit bats in terms of visual performance. We compared the number and distribution of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) as well as the maximum anatomical SRP derived from these distributions in 4 species of bats: Myotis daubentonii, a laryngeal echolocating bat from the family Vespertilionidae, Rousettus aegyptiacus, a tongue clicking echolocating bat from the family Pteropodidae, and Pteropus alecto and P. poliocephalus, 2 non-echolocating bats (also from the Pteropodidae). We find that all 3 pteropodids have a similar number (≈200,000 cells) and distribution of RGCs and a similar maximum SRP (≈4 cycles/degree). M. daubentonii has fewer (∼6,000 cells) and sparser RGCs than the pteropodids and thus a significantly lower SRP (0.6 cycles/degree). M. daubentonii also differs in terms of the distribution of RGCs by having a unique dorsal area of specialization in the retina. Our findings are consistent with the existing literature and suggest that M. daubentonii likely only uses vision for orientation, while for pteropodids vision is also important for foraging.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain, Behavior and Evolution
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)58-68
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Bats
  • Retinal ganglion cells
  • Retinal topography
  • Spatial resolving power
  • Stereology


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