The contrast sensitivity function of a small cryptobenthic marine fish

Santon M, Münch TA, Michiels NK

Journal of Vision · 1 Feb 2019 · doi: 10.1167/19.2.1


Application of our OptoDrum measurements to a small bottom-dwelling fish shows that these fish feature excellent contrast sensitivity.


Spatial resolution is a key property of eyes when it comes to understanding how animals' visual signals are perceived. This property can be robustly estimated by measuring the contrast sensitivity as a function of different spatial frequencies, defined as the number of achromatic vertical bright and dark stripe pairs within one degree of visual angle. This contrast sensitivity function (CSF) has been estimated for different animal groups, but data on fish are limited to two free-swimming, freshwater species (i.e., goldfish and bluegill sunfish). In this study, we describe the CSF of a small marine cryptobenthic fish (Tripterygion delaisi) using an optokinetic reflex approach. Tripterygion delaisi features a contrast sensitivity that is as excellent as other fish species, up to 125 (reciprocal of Michelson contrast) at the optimal spatial frequency of 0.375 c/°. The maximum spatial resolution is instead relatively coarse, around 2.125 c/°. By comparing our results with acuity values derived from anatomical estimates of ganglion cells' density, we conclude that the optokinetic reflex seems to be adapted to process low spatial frequency information from stimuli in the peripheral visual field and show that small marine fish can feature excellent contrast sensitivity at optimal spatial frequency.