Does the visual system of the flying fox resemble that of primates? The distribution of calcium-binding proteins in the primary visual pathway of Pteropus poliocephalus

J. M. Ichida, M. G.P. Rosa, V. A. Casagrande

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22 Citations (Scopus)


It has been proposed that flying foxes and echolocating bats evolved independently from early mammalian ancestors in such a way that flying foxes form one of the suborders most closely related to primates. A major piece of evidence offered in support of a flying fox-primate link is the highly developed visual system of flying foxes, which is theorized to be primate- like in several different ways. Because the calcium-binding proteins parvalbumin (PV) and calbindin (CB) show distinct and consistent distributions in the primate visual system, the distribution of these same proteins was examined in the flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) visual system. Standard immunocytochemical techniques reveal that PV labeling within the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of the flying fox is sparse, with clearly labeled cells located only within layer 1, adjacent to the optic tract. CB labeling in the LGN is profuse, with cells labeled in all layers throughout the nucleus. Double labeling reveals that all PV+ cells also contain CB, and that these cells are among the largest in the LGN. In primary visual cortex (V1) PV and CB label different classes of nonpyramidal neurons. PV+ cells are found in all cortical layers, although labeled cells are found only rarely in layer I. CB+ cells are found primarily in layers II and III. The density of PV+ neuropil correlates with the density of cytochrome oxidase staining; however, no CO+ or PV+ or CB+ patches or blobs are found in V1. These results show that the distribution of calcium-binding proteins in the flying fox LGN is unlike that found in primates, in which antibodies for PV and CB label specific separate populations of relay cells that exist in different layers. Indeed, the pattern of calcium-binding protein distribution in the flying fox LGN is different from that reported in any other terrestrial mammal. Within V1 no PV+ patches, CO blobs, or patchy distribution of CB+ neuropil that might reveal interblobs characteristic of primate V1 are found; however, PV and CB are found in separate populations of non-pyramidal neurons. The types of V1 cells labeled with antibodies to PV and CB in all mammals examined including the flying fox suggest that the similarities in the cellular distribution of these proteins in cortex reflect the fact that this feature is common to all mammals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-87
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Calbindin
  • Chiroptera
  • Lateral geniculate nucleus
  • Parvalbumin
  • Visual cortex

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