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J Exp Zool. 2001 Sep 1;290(4):359-65.

Retinal photoreceptors and visual pigments in Boa constrictor imperator.

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Section of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.


The photoreceptors of Boa constrictor, a boid snake of the subfamily Boinae, were examined with scanning electron microscopy and microspectrophotometry. The retina of B. constrictor is duplex but highly dominated by rods, cones comprising 11% of the photoreceptor population. The rather tightly packed rods have relatively long outer segments with proximal ends that are somewhat tapered. There are two morphologically distinct, single cones. The most common cone by far has a large inner segment and a relatively stout outer segment. The second cone, seen only infrequently, has a substantially smaller inner segment and a finer outer segment. The visual pigments of B. constrictor are virtually identical to those of the pythonine boid, Python regius. Three different visual pigments are present, all based on vitamin A(1.) The visual pigment of the rods has a wavelength of peak absorbance (lambda(max)) at 495 +/- 2 nm. The visual pigment of the more common, large cone has a lambda(max) at 549 +/- 1 nm. The small, rare cone contains a visual pigment with lambda(max) at 357 +/- 2 nm, providing the snake with sensitivity in the ultraviolet. We suggest that B. constrictor might employ UV sensitivity to locate conspecifics and/or to improve hunting efficiency. The data indicate that wavelength discrimination above 430 nm would not be possible without some input from the rods.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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