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J Neurobiol. 1990 Oct;21(7):1123-35.

The developing visual system and metamorphosis in the lamprey.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, New York University Medical Center, New York.


Metamorphosis of the sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus, is a true metamorphosis. The larval lamprey is a filter-feeder who dwells in the silt of freshwater streams and the adult is an active predator found in large lakes or the sea. The transformation usually occurs in the fifth or sixth year of life. Enlargement of the eye has been long accepted as a distinctive indication of metamorphosis in the sea lamprey, but it had been thought that this was because eye development in the larva was arrested after the formation of only the small central region. Recent studies indicate that all of the retina begins its development in the larva and that ganglion, amacrine, and horizontal cells differentiate in the peripheral retina of the larva. Retinal development is arrested during the premetamorphic period, to be resumed during metamorphosis. Metamorphic contributions include the differentiation of photoreceptor and bipolar cells. With the early appearance of ganglion cells, retinal pathways to the thalamus and tectum are established in larvae, as is a centripetal pathway. Tectal development spans the larval period but a spurt in tectal growth and differentiation is correlated with the completion of the retinal circuitry late in metamorphosis. The metamorphic changes in retina and tectum complete the functional development of the visual system and provide for the adult lamprey's predatory and reproductive behavior.

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