Structure and diversity of retinal ganglion cells in steller's sculpin Myoxocephalus stelleri tilesius, 1811

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Neuron types are elementary units of the nervous system underlying its structure and function. Identifying homologous neuron types in related species is essential for understanding the evolution of nervous structures. It has been taken for granted that neuronal types should be discovered and not defined (Cook, 1998). It would be advantageous to classify nerve cells using a wide variety of characteristics related to their structure, physiology, and development. However, this is technically demanding and requires the simultaneous implementation of mutually exclusive methods. For this reason, in most cases, a limited set of traits is used. Particularly, the structural approach to neuron classification is widespread, as the structure of a neuron is closely related to its function (Sanes and Masland, 2015). A “natural” classification of neurons should be based on a set of nonsubjective parameters and use computer‐assisted clusterization techniques (Schweitzer and Renehan, 1997). Despite certain drawbacks to this approach, many studies using it have been published in recent years (Armananzas and Ascoli, 2015).
Ganglion cells (GCs) are a class of retinal neurons that integrate the information from the preceding nerve cells and transmit it to the visual centers in the brain. Many studies focus on the structure and diversity of fish GCs (e.g., Ito and Murakami, 1984; Collin and Northcutt, 1993; Cohen et al., 2002; Ott et al., 2007). However, only a few of them meet the objective criteria described above. Recently, we proposed a morphological classification of GCs in the Pacific redfin Tribolodon brandtii based on a set of 19 structural parameters and using eight clusterization algorithms (Pushchin and Karetin, 2014). Here we adopted the same methodology to study the structure and diversity of GCs in a scorpaeniform fish, Steller's sculpin Myoxocephalus stelleri. The reasons for choosing this species were two‐fold. First, it belongs to the evolutionarily recent superorder Acanthopterygii and is therefore quite distant from the Pacific redfin, which belongs to the order Cypriniformes, one of the most ancient teleostean branches. It was therefore interesting to compare the diversity of GCs in the two species using the same approach. Second, both juvenile and adult Steller's sculpins are highly visual, feeding on a variety of mobile prey, mostly, fish, crustaceans, and polychaetes (Napazakov, 2008).
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