CIE Spotlight: Spectral sensitivity of cone photoreceptors and opsin expression in two colour-divergent lineages of the lizard Ctenophorus decresii

Andy B.
Andy B.

Title: Spectral sensitivity of cone photoreceptors and opsin expression in two colour-divergent lineages of the lizard Ctenophorus decresii

Authors: Yewers, Madeleine S.; McLean, Claire A.; Moussalli, Adnan; Stuart-Fox, Devi; Bennett, Andrew T. D.; Knott, Ben

Source: JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BIOLOGY, 218 (10):1556-1563, MAY 2015

Brief summary of the paper: Intraspecific differences in sensory perception are rarely reported but may occur when a species range extends across varying sensory environments, or there is coevolution between the sensory system and a varying signal. Examples in colour vision and colour signals are rare in terrestrial systems.

The tawny dragon lizard Ctenophorus decresii is a promising candidate for such intraspecific variation, because the species comprises two geographically and genetically distinct lineages in which throat colour (a social signal used in intra- and inter-specific interactions) is locally adapted to the habitat and differs between lineages.

Male lizards from the southern lineage have UV-blue throats, whereas males from the northern lineage are polymorphic with four discrete throat colours that all show minimal UV reflectance. Here we determine the cone photoreceptor spectral sensitivities and opsin expression of the two lineages, to test whether they differ, particularly in the UV wavelengths.

Using microspectrophotometry on retinal cone photoreceptors, we identified a long wavelength sensitive visual pigment, a ‘short’ and ‘long’ medium wavelength sensitive pigment and a short wavelength sensitive pigment, all of which did not differ in λmax between lineages.

Through transcriptome analysis of opsin genes we found that both lineages express four cone opsin genes, including that SWS1 opsin with peak sensitivity in the UV range, and that amino acid sequences did not differ between lineages with the exception of a single leucine/valine substitution in the RH2 opsin. Counts of yellow and transparent oil droplets associated with LWS+MWS and SWS+UVS cones respectively showed no difference in relative cone proportions between lineages.

Therefore, contrary to predictions, we find no evidence of differences between lineages in single cone photoreceptor spectral sensitivity or opsin expression; however, we confirm the presence of four single cones classes and thus likely tetrachromacy in C. decresii, and provide the first evidence of UV sensitivity in agamid lizards.