Background: Pronounced asymmetric changes in ocular globe size during eye development have been observed in a number of species ranging from humans to lizards. In contrast, largely symmetric changes in globe size have been described for other species such as rodents. We propose that asymmetric changes in the three-dimensional structure of the developing eye correlate with the types of retinal remodeling needed to produce areas of high photoreceptor density. As a test of this idea, we systematically examined three-dimensional aspects of globe size as a function of eye development in the bifoveated brown anole, Anolis sagrei. Results: During embryonic development, the anole eye undergoes dynamic changes in ocular shape. Initially spherical, the eye elongates in the presumptive foveal regions of the retina and then proceeds through a period of retraction that returns the eye to its spherical shape. During this period of retraction, pit formation and photoreceptor cell packing are observed. We found a similar pattern of elongation and retraction associated with the single fovea of the veiled chameleon, Chamaeleo calyptratus. Conclusions: These results, together with those reported for other foveated species, support the idea that areas of high photoreceptor packing occur in regions where the ocular globe asymmetrically elongates and retracts during development.
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