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Vision Res. 1984;24(11):1539-50.

Visual pigments and environmental light.


The visual pigments in the rods do not have a special absorption that gives them maximal sensitivity. The visual pigments of "deep sea" fish are an exception for these do match the environmental light to give maximum sensitivity. At the low light intensities at which the rods operate, it is the number of photons that go to make up each element of the image that limits the ability of the eye to discriminate detail and contrast. Chemically induced isomerisation of the visual pigment molecule may cause spurious visual signals that limit the ability of the eye to detect contrasts in very dim light. In bright light the spurious visual signals become insignificant in number compared to the true photon-induced visual signals. Compared to the rods, cone visual pigments do match the spectral properties of the environment except that there appear to be no visual pigments with an absorption maximum beyond the 625 nm porphyropsins in cones. U.V. absorbing pigments are know in invertebrates, birds and fish that live in very shallow water. Animals have photoreceptors in parts of the body other than the eyes. In vertebrates these sites include the pineal, chromatophores, brain, skin and harderian gland. There is evidence based on immunocytochemistry and action spectra that at least some of the skin and pineal receptors contain visual pigments, but like those of the rods, these do not match the spectral quality of the environmental light.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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