Author(s): Kelleher Davis R, Doane MG, Knop E, Knop N, Dubielzig RR, Colitz CM, Argüeso P, Sullivan DA. Characterization of ocular gland morphology and tear composition of pinnipeds. Vet Ophthalmol. 2013 Jul;16(4):269-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-5224.2012.01073.x. Epub 2012 Oct 15. PMID 23067374
OBJECTIVE The importance of tear film integrity to ocular health in terrestrial mammals is well established, however, in marine mammals, the role of the tear film in protection of the ocular surface is not known. In an effort to better understand the function of tears in maintaining health of the marine mammal eye surface, we examined ocular glands of the California sea lion and began to characterize the biochemical nature of the tear film of pinnipeds.
PROCEDURES Glands dissected from California sea lion eyelids and adnexa were examined for gross morphology, sectioned for microscopic analysis, and stained with hematoxylin and eosin. The tear film was examined using interferometry. Tears were collected from humans and pinnipeds for the analysis of protein and carbohydrate content.
RESULTS The sea lion has sebaceous glands in the lid, but these glands are different in size and orientation compared with typical meibomian glands of terrestrial mammals. Two other accessory ocular glands located dorsotemporally and medially appeared to be identical in morphology, with tubulo-acinar morphology. An outer lipid layer on the ocular surface of the sea lion was not detected using interferometry, consistent with the absence of typical meibomian glands. Similar to human tears, the tears of pinnipeds contain several proteins but the ratio of carbohydrate to protein was greater than that in human tears.
CONCLUSIONS Our findings indicate that the ocular gland architecture and biochemical nature of the tear film of pinnipeds have evolved to adapt to the challenges of an aquatic environment.