Photoreceptors and diurnal variation in spectral sensitivity in the fiddler crab Gelasimus dampieri

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Colour signals, and the ability to detect them, are important for many animals and can be vital to their survival and fitness. Fiddler crabs use colour information to detect and recognise conspecifics, but their colour vision capabilities remain unclear. Many studies have attempted to measure their spectral sensitivity and identify contributing retinular cells, but the existing evidence is inconclusive. We used electroretinogram (ERG) measurements and intracellular recordings from retinular cells to estimate the spectral sensitivity of Gelasimus dampieri and to track diurnal changes in spectral sensitivity. G. dampieri has a broad spectral sensitivity and is most sensitive to wavelengths between 420 to 460 nm. Selective adaptation experiments uncovered an ultraviolet (UV) retinular cell with a peak sensitivity shorter than 360 nm. The species’ spectral sensitivity above 400 nm is too broad to be fitted by a single visual pigment and using optical modelling we provide evidence that at least two medium-wavelength sensitive (MWS) visual pigments are contained within a second blue-green sensitive retinular cell. We also found an approximate 25 nm diurnal shift in spectral sensitivity towards longer wavelengths in the evening in both ERG and intracellular recordings. Whether the shift is caused by screening pigment migration or changes in opsin expression remains unclear, but the observation shows the diel dynamism of colour vision in this species. Together, these findings support the notion that G. dampieri possesses the minimum requirement for colour vision, with UV and blue/green receptors, and help to explain some of the inconsistent results of previous research.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb230979
Number of pages12
JournalThe Journal of Experimental Biology
Issue number23
Early online date23 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2020


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