Retinal development and ommin pigment in the cranchiid squid Teuthowenia pellucida (Cephalopoda: Oegopsida)
The cranchiid Teuthowenia pellucida, like many deep-sea squid species, possesses large eyes that maximise light sensitivity in a nearly aphotic environment. To assess ontogenetic changes in the visual system, we conducted morphometric and histological analyses of the eyes using specimens from New Zealand collections. While the ratio between eye diameter and mantle length maintained a linear relationship throughout development, histological sections of the retina revealed that the outer photoreceptor layer became proportionally longer as the animal aged, coincident with a habitat shift into deeper, darker ocean strata. Other retinal layers maintained the same absolute thickness as was observed in paralarvae. Granules of the pigment ommin, normally located in the screening layer positioned at the base of the photoreceptors, were also observed at the outer end of the photoreceptor segments throughout the retina in young and mid-sized specimens. Early developmental stages of this species, dwelling in shallow waters, may therefore rely on migratory ommin to help shield photoreceptors from excess light and prevent over-stimulation. The oldest, deeper-dwelling specimens of T. pellucida examined had longer photoreceptors, and little or no migrated ommin was observed; we suggest therefore that short-term adaptive mechanisms for bright light conditions may be used primarily during epipelagic, early life stages in this species.