Retinal projections in two crocodilian species, Caiman crocodilus and Crocodylus niloticus
The superficial layers of the viper optic tectum, which receive fibers from he retina, were studied using both light and electron microscopes. The optic fibers layer, or stratum opticum, is composed of 200 to 250 tight fascicles containing thin fibers, nearly all of which are myelinated. The main optic terminal layers, the stratum griseum et fibrosum superficiale, the greatest part of the cellular population is composed of small vertically oriented neurons and horizontal nerve cells, many of which are probably local circuit neurons. The neuropil of the stratum griseum et fibrosum superficiale is made up of small nerve elements, including three types of profiles containing synaptic vesicles; 1) boutons with pleiomorphic synaptic vesicles (P), representing over 47% of the total population of profiles containing synaptic vesicles and comprising three subgroups (P1, P2, and P3); 2) boutons with spheroidal synaptic vesicles (S), forming more than 29% of the total populations of profiles containing synaptic vesicles and comprising two categories, S1 and S2 (S2, the more numerous, represents the optic boutons, which make up 22% of the total populations of profiles containing synaptic vesicles); and 3) dendrites with pleiomorphic vesicles, accounting for approximately 23% of the total populations of profiles containing synaptic vesicles. A study of synaptic patterns revealed a large number of serial synapses and a lesser number of triplets or triadic synapses. The presynaptic components are boutons containing spheroidal (S1, S2) or pleiomorphic (P1, P2, P3) synaptic vesicles. The intermediate profile was always a dendrite with synaptic vesicles which frequently belonged to the small neurons of the stratum griseum et fibrosum superficiale. Comparison of the present results with other recent data shows that the synaptic circuitry in the optic tectum of Vipera aspis closely resembles the pattern observed in the optic tectum of other vertebrates, ranging form fish to mammals. However, quantitative differences exist, especially with regard to the proportion of dendrites containing synaptic vesicles. Their number seems to be higher in sauropsidians than in mammals, particularly in primates.