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

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journal contribution
posted on 2015-01-01, 00:00 authored by M S Yewers, C A McLean, A Moussalli, D Stuart-Fox, Andy Bennett, Ben Knott
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 (LWS) visual pigment, a 'short' and 'long' medium-wavelength-sensitive (MWS) pigment and a short-wavelength-sensitive (SWS) 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 the 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 to 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 cone classes, suggesting tetrachromacy in C. decresii, and we also provide the first evidence of UV sensitivity in agamid lizards.



Journal of experimental biology




1556 - 1563


The Company of Biologists


Cambridge, Eng.





Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2015, The Company of Biologists