Comparative study of the corneal epithelium in some reptiles inhabiting different environments
El-Bakry, A.M. 2011. Comparative study of the corneal epithelium in some reptiles inhabiting different environments. —Acta Zoologica (Stockholm) 92: 54–61.
The vertebrate cornea functions in either aquatic or aerial environments and in some cases in both. In terrestrial and aerial vertebrates, the cornea contributes most of the refractive powers of the eye because of the large variation in refractive index between the air and the cornea. The present study aimed to examine and compare the main features of the corneal epithelial surface of three reptilian species related to three different families (Caretta caretta, Varanus griseus and Mabuya quinquetaeniata) and inhabiting different environment, by light, scanning (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy. The mean epithelial cell densities of the species of the study were 8.670 ± 3.134, 5.945 ± 2.144 and 2.124 ± 713 respectively. The corneal epithelium of the three species observed by SEM showed a similarity to one another indicating that the apical cell surfaces possess regular polygonal cells with varieties of microprocesses. These microprocesses were represented by microplicae, numerous microvilli and some long microridges in C. caretta, microplicae and minute microholes in V. griseus and microplicae intermingled with short microvilli in M. quinquetaeniata. According to the densities of these microprocesses, three polymorphic cell types (light, medium and dark) appeared in C. caretta, light and medium cell types were observed in V. griseus and medium and dark cell types were noticed in M. quinquetaeniata. Different types of tight adhesions were observed by transmission electron microscopy between the cell borders of the epithelial cells which differ according to environment where the species occupy. In conclusion, variation in the structure of the corneal epithelial cells appears to be related to the living environment, such as aerial, terrestrial and aquatic ones, which is occupied by every species.