We quantitatively studied the ontogeny of oculomotor behavior in larval fish as a foundation for studies linking oculomotor structure and function with genetics. Horizontal optokinetic and vestibuloocular reflexes (OKR and VOR, respectively) were measured in three different species (goldfish, zebrafish, and medaka) during the first month after hatching. For all sizes of medaka, and most zebrafish, Bode plots of OKR (0.065-3.0 Hz, ± 10°/s) revealed that eye velocity closely followed stimulus velocity (gain > 0.8) at low frequency but dropped sharply above 1 Hz (gain < 0.3 at 3 Hz). Goldfish showed increased gain proportional to size across frequencies. Linearity testing with steps and sinusoids showed excellent visual performance (gain > 0.8) in medaka almost from hatching; but zebrafish and goldfish exhibited progressive improvement, with only the largest equaling medaka performance. Monocular visual stimulation in zebrafish and goldfish produced gains of 0.5 versus < 0.1 for the eye viewing a moving versus stationary stimulus pattern but 0.25 versus < 0.1 in medaka. Angular VOR appeared much later than OKR, initially at only high accelerations (> 200°/s at 0.5 Hz), first in medaka followed by larger (8.11 mm) zebrafish; but it was virtually nonexistent in goldfish. Velocity storage was not observed except for an eye velocity build-up in the largest medaka. In summary, a robust OKR was achieved shortly after hatching in all three species. In contrast, larval fish seem to be unique among vertebrates tested in their lack of significant angular VOR at stages where active movement is required for feeding and survival.
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