The ultraviolet receptor of bird retinas

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Science  20 Jul 1984:
Vol. 225, Issue 4659, pp. 337-340
DOI: 10.1126/science.6740315


The eyes of 15 species of birds from 10 families have some cones maximally sensitive at 370 nanometers in the near-ultraviolet. Spectral sensitivity was measured by recording extracellularly in opened eyecups , and a maximum in the ultraviolet was revealed by selectively adapting the retina with yellow background lights. The 370-nanometer spectral sensitivity function is attributed to receptors because its spectral position does not vary with the strength of adaptation and because it is present when the receptor potentials are isolated from the contributions of higher order retinal neurons by exposing the retina to sodium aspartate. These measurements demonstrate the basis for the ultraviolet sensitivity of birds that has been seen in behavioral experiments, and they provide further evidence that many vertebrates share with insects vision in the near-ultraviolet.