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Ultraviolet-sensitive vision in long-lived birds

journal contribution
posted on 2011-01-07, 00:00 authored by L Carvalho, Ben KnottBen Knott, Mathew BergMathew Berg, Andy BennettAndy Bennett, D Hunt
Long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light generates substantial damage, and in mammals, visual sensitivity to UV is restricted to short-lived diurnal rodents and certain marsupials. In humans, the cornea and lens absorb all UV-A and most of the terrestrial UV-B radiation, preventing the reactive and damaging shorter wavelengths from reaching the retina. This is not the case in certain species of long-lived diurnal birds, which possess UV-sensitive (UVS) visual pigments, maximally sensitive below 400 nm. The Order Psittaciformes contains some of the longest lived bird species, and the two species examined so far have been shown to possess UVS pigments. The objective of this study was to investigate the prevalence of UVS pigments across long-lived parrots, macaws and cockatoos, and therefore assess whether they need to cope with the accumulated effects of exposure to UV-A and UV-B over a long period of time. Sequences from the SWS1 opsin gene revealed that all 14 species investigated possess a key substitution that has been shown to determine a UVS pigment. Furthermore, in vitro regeneration data, and lens transparency, corroborate the molecular findings of UV sensitivity. Our findings thus support the claim that the Psittaciformes are the only avian Order in which UVS pigments are ubiquitous, and indicate that these long-lived birds have UV sensitivity, despite the risks of photodamage.

History

Journal

Royal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences

Volume

278

Issue

1702

Pagination

107 - 114

Publisher

The Royal Society

Location

London, England

ISSN

0962-8452

eISSN

1471-2954

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2011, The Royal Society