Variable vision in variable environments: the visual system of an invasive cichlid (Cichla monoculus) in Lake Gatun, Panama.
ABSTRACT: An adaptive visual system is essential for organisms inhabiting new or changing light environments. The Panama Canal exhibits such variable environments owing to its anthropogenic origin and current human activities. Within the Panama Canal, Lake Gatun harbors several exotic fish species including the invasive peacock bass (Cichla monoculus), a predatory Amazonian cichlid. In this research, through spectral measurements and molecular and physiological experiments, we studied the visual system of C. monoculus and its adaptive capabilities. Our results suggest that (1) Lake Gatun is a highly variable environment, where light transmission changes throughout the canal waterway, and that (2) C. monoculus has several visual adaptations suited for this red-shifted light environment. Cichla monoculus filters short wavelengths (?400?nm) from the environment through its ocular media and tunes its visual sensitivities to the available light through opsin gene expression. More importantly, based on shifts in spectral sensitivities of photoreceptors alone, and on transcriptome analysis, C. monoculus exhibits extreme intraspecific variation in the use of vitamin A1/A2 chromophore in their photoreceptors. Fish living in turbid water had higher proportions of vitamin A2, shifting sensitivities to longer wavelengths, than fish living in clear water. Furthermore, we also found variation in retinal transcriptomes, where fish from turbid and clear waters exhibited differentially expressed genes that vary greatly in their function. We suggest that this phenotypic plasticity has been key in the invasion success of C. monoculus.
Project description:Human activities are dramatically altering ecosystems worldwide, often resulting in shifts in selection regimes. In response, natural populations sometimes undergo rapid phenotypic changes, which, if adaptive, can increase their probability of persistence. However, in many instances, populations fail to undergo any phenotypic change, which might indicate a variety of possibilities, including maladaptation. In freshwater ecosystems, the impoundment of rivers and the introduction of exotic species are among the leading threats to native fishes. We examined how the construction of the Panama Canal, which formed Lake Gatun, and the subsequent invasion of the predatory Cichla monoculus influenced the morphology of two native fishes: Astyanax ruberrimus and Roeboides spp. Using a 100-year time series, we studied variation in overall body shape over time (before vs. after impoundment and invasion) as well as across space (between an invaded and an uninvaded reservoir). In addition, we examined variation in linear morphological traits associated with swim performance and predator detection/avoidance. Notwithstanding a few significant changes in particular traits in particular comparisons, we found only limited evidence for morphological change associated with these two stressors. Most observed changes were subtle, and tended to be site- and species-specific. The lack of a strong morphological response to these stressors, coupled with dramatic population declines in both species, suggests they may be maladapted to the anthropogenically perturbed environment of Lake Gatun, but direct measures of fitness would be needed to test this. In general, our results suggest that morphological responses to anthropogenic disturbances can be very limited and, when they do occur, are often complex and context-dependent.
Project description:A major goal of evolutionary biology is to unravel the molecular genetic mechanisms that underlie functional diversification and adaptation. We investigated how changes in gene regulation and coding sequence contribute to sensory diversification in two replicate radiations of cichlid fishes. In the clear waters of Lake Malawi, differential opsin expression generates diverse visual systems, with sensitivities extending from the ultraviolet to the red regions of the spectrum. These sensitivities fall into three distinct clusters and are correlated with foraging habits. In the turbid waters of Lake Victoria, visual sensitivity is constrained to longer wavelengths, and opsin expression is correlated with ambient light. In addition to regulatory changes, we found that the opsins coding for the shortest- and longest-wavelength visual pigments have elevated numbers of potentially functional substitutions. Thus, we present a model of sensory evolution in which both molecular genetic mechanisms work in concert. Changes in gene expression generate large shifts in visual pigment sensitivity across the collective opsin spectral range, but changes in coding sequence appear to fine-tune visual pigment sensitivity at the short- and long-wavelength ends of this range, where differential opsin expression can no longer extend visual pigment sensitivity.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The visual system is important for animals for mate choice, food acquisition, and predator avoidance. Animals possessing a visual system can sense particular wavelengths of light emanating from objects and their surroundings and perceive their environments by processing information contained in these visual perceptions of light. Visual perception in individuals varies with the absorption spectra of visual pigments and the expression levels of opsin genes, which may be altered according to the light environments. However, which light environments and the mechanism by which they change opsin expression profiles and whether these changes in opsin gene expression can affect light sensitivities are largely unknown. This study determined whether the light environment during growth induced plastic changes in opsin gene expression and behavioral sensitivity to particular wavelengths of light in guppies (Poecilia reticulata). RESULTS:Individuals grown under orange light exhibited a higher expression of long wavelength-sensitive (LWS) opsin genes and a higher sensitivity to 600-nm light than those grown under green light. In addition, we confirmed that variations in the expression levels of LWS opsin genes were related to the behavioral sensitivities to long wavelengths of light. CONCLUSIONS:The light environment during the growth stage alters the expression levels of LWS opsin genes and behavioral sensitivities to long wavelengths of light in guppies. The plastically enhanced sensitivity to background light due to changes in opsin gene expression can enhance the detection and visibility of predators and foods, thereby affecting survival. Moreover, changes in sensitivities to orange light may lead to changes in the discrimination of orange/red colors of male guppies and might alter female preferences for male color patterns.
Project description:The light environment in water bodies changes with depth due to the absorption of short and long wavelengths. Below 10?m depth, red wavelengths are almost completely absent rendering any red-reflecting animal dark and achromatic. However, fluorescence may produce red coloration even when red light is not available for reflection. A large number of marine taxa including over 270 fish species are known to produce red fluorescence, yet it is unclear under which natural light environment fluorescence contributes perceptively to their colours. To address this question we: (i) characterized the visual system of Tripterygion delaisi, which possesses fluorescent irides, (ii) separated the colour of the irides into its reflectance and fluorescence components and (iii) combined these data with field measurements of the ambient light environment to calculate depth-dependent perceptual chromatic and achromatic contrasts using visual modelling. We found that triplefins have cones with at least three different spectral sensitivities, including differences between the two members of the double cones, giving them the potential for trichromatic colour vision. We also show that fluorescence contributes increasingly to the radiance of the irides with increasing depth. Our results support the potential functionality of red fluorescence, including communicative roles such as species and sex identity, and non-communicative roles such as camouflage.
Project description:BACKGROUND: As we know from modern species, nursery areas are essential shark habitats for vulnerable young. Nurseries are typically highly productive, shallow-water habitats that are characterized by the presence of juveniles and neonates. It has been suggested that in these areas, sharks can find ample food resources and protection from predators. Based on the fossil record, we know that the extinct Carcharocles megalodon was the biggest shark that ever lived. Previous proposed paleo-nursery areas for this species were based on the anecdotal presence of juvenile fossil teeth accompanied by fossil marine mammals. We now present the first definitive evidence of ancient nurseries for C. megalodon from the late Miocene of Panama, about 10 million years ago. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We collected and measured fossil shark teeth of C. megalodon, within the highly productive, shallow marine Gatun Formation from the Miocene of Panama. Surprisingly, and in contrast to other fossil accumulations, the majority of the teeth from Gatun are very small. Here we compare the tooth sizes from the Gatun with specimens from different, but analogous localities. In addition we calculate the total length of the individuals found in Gatun. These comparisons and estimates suggest that the small size of Gatun's C. megalodon is neither related to a small population of this species nor the tooth position within the jaw. Thus, the individuals from Gatun were mostly juveniles and neonates, with estimated body lengths between 2 and 10.5 meters. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: We propose that the Miocene Gatun Formation represents the first documented paleo-nursery area for C. megalodon from the Neotropics, and one of the few recorded in the fossil record for an extinct selachian. We therefore show that sharks have used nursery areas at least for 10 millions of years as an adaptive strategy during their life histories.
Project description:To convert external light into internal neural signal, vertebrates rely on a special group of proteins, the visual opsins. Four of the five types of visual opsins-short-wavelength sensitive 1 (Sws1), short-wavelength sensitive 2 (Sws2), medium-wavelength sensitive (Rh2), and long-wavelength sensitive (Lws)-are expressed in cone cells for scotopic vision, with the fifth, rhodopsin (Rh1), being expressed in rod cells for photopic vision. Fish often display differing ontogenetic cone opsin expression profiles, which may be related to dietary and/or habitat ontogenetic shift. The western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) is an aggressive invader that has successfully colonized every continent except Antarctica. The strong invasiveness of this species may be linked to its visual acuity since it can inhabit turbid waters better than other fishes. By genome screening and transcriptome analysis, we identify seven cone opsin genes in the western mosquitofish, including one sws1, two sws2, one rh2, and three lws. The predicted maximal absorbance wavelength (?max) values of the respective proteins are 353 nm for Sws1, 449 nm for Sws2a, 408 nm for Sws2b, 516 nm for Rh2-1, 571 nm for Lws-1, and 519 nm for Lws-3. Retention of an intron in the lws-r transcript likely renders this visual opsin gene non-functional. Our real-time quantitative PCR demonstrates that adult male and female western mosquitofish do not differ in their cone opsin expression profiles, but we do reveal an ontogenetic shift in cone opsin expression. Compared to adults, larvae express proportionally more sws1 and less lws-1, suggesting that the western mosquitofish is more sensitive to shorter wavelengths in the larval stage, but becomes more sensitive to longer wavelengths in adulthood.
Project description:A molecular phylogenetic analysis based on mitochondrial 16S ribosomal DNA and Control Region sequences from native and introduced populations was undertaken, in order to characterize the introduction of Cichla (peacock bass or tucunaré) species in Brazil. Mitochondrial DNA haplotypes found in introduced fish from Minas Gerais state (southeastern Brazil) clustered only with those from native species of the Tocantins River (Cichla piquiti and C. kelberi), thereby suggesting a single or, at most, few translocation acts in this area, even though with fish from the same source-population. Our study contributes to an understanding of the introduction of Cichla in regions of Brazil outside the Amazon basin, and adds phylogenetic data to the recently describe Cichla species, endemic from the Tocantins-Araguaia basin.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Vision, an important sensory modality of many animals, exhibits plasticity in that it adapts to environmental conditions to maintain its sensory efficiency. Nuptial coloration is used to attract mates and hence should be tightly coupled to vision. In Taiwan, two closely related bitterlings (Paratanakia himantegus himantegus and Paratanakia himantegus chii) with different male nuptial colorations reside in different habitats. We compared the visual spectral sensitivities of these subspecies with the ambient light spectra of their habitats to determine whether their visual abilities correspond with photic parameters and correlate with nuptial colorations. RESULTS:Theelectroretinogram (ERG) results revealed that the relative spectral sensitivity of P.h. himantegus was higher at 670 nm, but lower at 370 nm, than the sensitivity of P. h. chii. Both bitterlings could perceive and reflect UV light, but the UV reflection patterns differed between genders. Furthermore, the relative irradiance intensity of the light spectra in the habitat of P. h. himantegus was higher at long wavelengths (480-700 nm), but lower at short wavelengths (350-450 nm), than the light spectra in the habitats of P. h.chii. CONCLUSIONS:Two phylogenetically closely related bitterlings, P. h. himantegus and P. h. chii, dwell in different waters and exhibit different nuptial colorations and spectral sensitivities, which may be the results of speciation by sensory drive. Sensory ability and signal diversity accommodating photic environment may promote diversity of bitterling fishes. UV light was demonstrated to be a possible component of bitterling visual communication. The UV cue may assist bitterlings in genderidentification.
Project description:Opsin proteins are fundamental components of animal vision whose structure largely determines the sensitivity of visual pigments to different wavelengths of light. Surprisingly little is known about opsin evolution in beetles, even though they are the most species rich animal group on Earth and exhibit considerable variation in visual system sensitivities. We reveal the patterns of opsin evolution across 62 beetle species and relatives. Our results show that the major insect opsin class (SW) that typically confers sensitivity to "blue" wavelengths was lost ~300 million years ago, before the origin of modern beetles. We propose that UV and LW opsin gene duplications have restored the potential for trichromacy (three separate channels for colour vision) in beetles up to 12 times and more specifically, duplications within the UV opsin class have likely led to the restoration of "blue" sensitivity up to 10 times. This finding reveals unexpected plasticity within the insect visual system and highlights its remarkable ability to evolve and adapt to the available light and visual cues present in the environment.