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J Anat. 1994 Dec;185 ( Pt 3):637-42.

A scanning electron microscope study of the pecten oculi of the black kite (Milvus migrans): possible involvement of melanosomes in protecting the pecten against damage by ultraviolet light.

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Department of Veterinary Anatomy, University of Nairobi, Kenya.


The pecten oculi of the black kite (Milvus migrans), a diurnally active bird of prey, has been examined by scanning electron microscopy. In this species the pecten consists of 12 highly vascularised pleats, held together apically by a heavily pigmented 'bridge' and projects freely into the vitreous body in the ventral part of the eye cup. Ascending and descending blood vessels of varying calibre, together with a profuse network of capillaries, essentially constitute the vascular framework of the pecten. A distinct distribution of melanosomes is discernible on the pecten, the concentration being highest at its apical end, moderate at the crest of the pleats and least at the basal and lateral margins. Overlying and within the vascular network, a close association between blood vessels and melanocytes is evident. It is conjectured that such an association may have evolved to augment the structural reinforcement of this nutritive organ in order to keep it firmly erectile within the gel-like vitreous. Such erectility may be an essential prerequisite for its optimal functioning, as well as in its overt use as a protective shield against the effects of ultraviolet light, which otherwise might lead to damage of the pectineal vessels.

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