Open Access Research article

The embryology of the retinal pigmented epithelium in dwarf geckos (Gekkota: Sphaerodactylinae): a unique developmental pattern

Ricardo A Guerra-Fuentes1, Juan D Daza23* and Aaron M Bauer2

Author Affiliations

1 Museu de Zoologia, Universidade de São Paulo, CP 42.494, 04218-970 São Paulo, Brazil

2 Biology Department, Villanova University, 800 Lancaster Avenue, Villanova, PA 19085-1699, USA

3 Department of Biological Sciences, Sam Houston State University, 1900 Avenue I, Huntsville, TX 77341-2116, USA

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BMC Developmental Biology 2014, 14:29  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-14-29

Published: 30 June 2014



The retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) is a rounded shaped structure in almost all lizards. In the New World dwarf geckos, this structure shows an unusual morphology. In addition to this ocular character, we describe notable differences in the development of these geckos in comparison with available developmental staging tables for other geckos and squamate reptiles.


We identified two main patterns of development of the RPE for squamates. These patterns were mapped onto a metatree of concordant hypotheses of squamates based on molecular data. During post-ovopositional stages the representative species of sphaerodactyls exhibit a RPE layer that transforms gradually from an ovoid form into the generalized spherical form. Sphaerodactyls are the only group of squamates in which this pattern is known.


This transition might be circumstantial evidence that the accessory RPE plays a role in providing additional protection for their apomorphic concaviclivate temporal fovea. We also report the presence of conjunctival papillae in a developmental stage prior to the formation of scleral ossicles. This developmental progression is similar to that of birds and turtles.

Squamata; Eye development; Concaviclivate temporal fovea; Conjunctival papillae