A scanning electron microscope study of the luminal surface specializations in the blood vessels of the pecten oculi in a diurnal bird, the black kite
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The luminal surface of the pecten oculi of the black kite (Milvus migrans), a diurnally active bird of prey, was examined by scanning electron microscopy. In this species the blood vessels are generally of two types, the small-calibre capillaries and the large-calibre afferent and efferent vessels. The luminal surface of the efferent blood vessels possesses a few low microplicae. Conversely, the luminal surface of the afferent blood vessels is characteristically smooth except at the cell junctions and at the point of entry into the capillaries. The cells junctions are marked by low ragged ridges while the luminal surface is studded with low sparse pleomorphic micro-projections at the point of capillary emergence. The luminal surface of the blood capillaries is characterised by a labyrinth of closely disposed microplicae that projects into the lumen. These microplicae show no particular orientation with respect to either the longitudinal or transverse axis of the capillary. Instead, they are diffusely orientated. It is conjectured that such a heterogeneous design of the endothelium in the blood vessels of the pecten oculi has developed in order to augment the role of the pecten in the transport of nutrients to the avascular neural retina by an energy saving diffusion process. The process through which the design of the microfolds affects haemodynamics and their putatite role in facilitating the delivery of nutrients are discussed in the perspective of the available data.