Retinal Ganglion Cells (RGCs) in two diurnal raptors, the buzzard (Buteo buteo) and kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), and in two nocturnal raptors, the little owl (Athene noctua) and tawny owl (Strix aluco), were studied in order to highlight their topographical distribution, taking into account the soma size. Cell density (RGCs/mm2) and median soma area from histological radial sections in four retinal fields (dorsal, ventral, temporal and nasal) were recorded in order to identify specialized retinal vision areas. The results showed a different RGCs distribution between diurnal and nocturnal raptors related to the location of the foveas and shape of the horizontal streak, confirming the bibliographic data. In diurnal raptors, a higher cell density was found in the temporal and central retinal fields as revealed by the presence of a temporal and a central fovea which showed a “horizontal streak”. In nocturnal raptors the cell density was higher in the peripheral temporal field likely due to a temporal fovea. A peak in cell density observed in the ventral field, especially in the retina of little owls, might be linked to a more “radial visual streak”. Comparing the data obtained we highlighted that the morphology and the number of RGCs are closely linked to the habitat and to the type of predation.
KEY WORDS: Retinal ganglion cells; Topographical distribution; Raptors.