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Qiu, Yongrong; Zhao, Zhijian; Klindt, David; Kautzky, Magdalena; Szatko, Klaudia P.; Schaeffel, Frank; Rifai, Katharina; Franke, Katrin; Busse, Laura ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6127-7754 and Euler, Thomas (2021): Natural environment statistics in the upper and lower visual field are reflected in mouse retinal specializations. In: Current Biology, Vol. 31, No. 15: pp. 3233-3247

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Pressures for survival make sensory circuits adapted to a species’ natural habitat and its behavioral challenges. Thus, to advance our understanding of the visual system, it is essential to consider an animal’s specific visual environment by capturing natural scenes, characterizing their statistical regularities, and using them to probe visual computations. Mice, a prominent visual system model, have salient visual specializations, being dichromatic with enhanced sensitivity to green and UV in the dorsal and ventral retina, respectively. However, the characteristics of their visual environment that likely have driven these adaptations are rarely considered. Here, we built a UV-green-sensitive camera to record footage from mouse habitats. This footage is publicly available as a resource for mouse vision research. We found chromatic contrast to greatly diverge in the upper, but not the lower, visual field. Moreover, training a convolutional autoencoder on upper, but not lower, visual field scenes was sufficient for the emergence of color-opponent filters, suggesting that this environmental difference might have driven superior chromatic opponency in the ventral mouse retina, supporting color discrimination in the upper visual field. Furthermore, the upper visual field was biased toward dark UV contrasts, paralleled by more light-offset-sensitive ganglion cells in the ventral retina. Finally, footage recorded at twilight suggests that UV promotes aerial predator detection. Our findings support that natural scene statistics shaped early visual processing in evolution.

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