Interspecific variation in the visual pigments of deep-sea fishes

J. C. Partridge, Julia Shand, S. N. Archer, J. N. Lythgoe, W. A.H.M. van Groningen-Luyben

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106 Citations (Scopus)


Visual pigments in the rods of 38 species of deep-sea fish were examined by microspectrophotometry. 33 species were found to have a single rhodopsin with a wavelength of maximum absorbance (λmax) in the range 470-495 nm. Such visual pigments have absorbance maxima close to the wavelengths of maximum spectral transmission of oceanic water. 5 species, however, did not conform to this pattern and visual pigments were found with λmax values ranging from 451 nm to 539 nm. In 4 of these species two visual pigments were found located in two types of rod. Some 2-pigment species which have unusual red sensitivity, also have red-emitting photophores. These species have both rhodopsin and porphyropsin pigments in their retinae, which was confirmed by HPLC, and the two pigments are apparently located in separate rods in the same retinal area. In deep-sea fishes the occurrence of 'unusual' visual pigments seems to be correlated with aspects of the species' depth ranges. In addition to ecological influences we present evidence, in the form of λmax spectral clustering, that indicates the degree of molecular constraint imposed on the evolution of visual pigments in the deep-sea.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-529
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 1989
Externally publishedYes


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