Eye degeneration in the blind cave-dwelling fish Phreatichthys andruzzii

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The blind cave-dwelling fish Phreatichthys andruzzii shows rapid eye development, and at a temperature of 29.5°C, maximal eye differentiation is reached 36 h after egg laying. Very rapid eye degeneration then occurs, and a rudimentary and very degenerated ocular cyst is all that remains 1 month later. This may explain why this species has so often been erroneously considered anophthalmic. Ocular degeneration starts with a decrease in the rate of mitosis in the neuroblastic cells of the retinal Anlage. Degeneration by means of lytic processes is clearly observed beginning 32 h after egg laying. Disappearance of the lens, transformation of the cornea into skin, and cryptic degeneration of the eyes are phenotypic variations of the fundamental mechanisms of eye development in vertebrates. These can be considered evolutionary adaptations by the ancestral fishes to the aphotic cave environment.

Chez Phreatichthys andruzzii, un poisson cavernicole aveugle, nous observons un développement oculaire ultra-rapide à 29.5°C. Il atteint son développement maximum 36 h après la ponte. Nous observons ensuite une dégénérescence très poussée des yeux. Un mois après la ponte, il ne persiste qu'un kyste oculaire rudimentaire et très dégénératif. Ceci pourrait expliquer pourquoi cette espèce a été faussement considérée comme anophthalme. La dégénérescence oculaire, dès le stade neurula, se traduit par une diminution du taux des mitoses des cellules neuroblastiques de l'ébauche rétinienne. Elle se manifeste visiblement, à partir du stade 32 h après la ponte, par des processus lytiques. La disparition du cristallin, la transformation de la cornée en peau, la dégénérescence cryptique des yeux sont des variations phénotypiques des mécanismes de base du développement de l'oeil des vertébrés. Ces variations peuvent être considérées comme des réponses évolutives des formes ancestrales lors de leur adaptation au milieu souterrain.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2001

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