Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 174, Issue 4, pp 461–467

The ecology of the visual pigments of snappers (Lutjanidae) on the Great Barrier Reef

  • J. N. Lythgoe
  • W. R. A. Muntz
  • J. C. Partridge
  • J. Shand
  • D. McB. Williams

DOI: 10.1007/BF00191712

Cite this article as:
Lythgoe, J.N., Muntz, W.R.A., Partridge, J.C. et al. J Comp Physiol A (1994) 174: 461. doi:10.1007/BF00191712


The visual pigments in the retinal photoreceptors of 12 species of snappers of the genus Lutjanus (Teleostei; Perciformes; Lutjanidae) were measured by microspectrophotometry. All the species were caught on the Great Barrier Reef (Australia) but differ in the colour of the water in which they live. Some live in the clear blue water of the outer reef, some in the greener water of the middle and inshore reefs and some in the more heavily stained mangrove and estuarine water. All the species had double cones, each member of the pair containing a different visual pigment. Using Baker's and Smith's (1982) model to predict the spectral distribution of ambient light from chlorophyll and dissolved organic matter it was found that the absorption spectra of the visual pigments in the double cones were close to those that confer the maximum sensitivity in the different water types. Single cones contained a blue or violet-sensitive visual pigment. The visual pigments in the rods showed little variation, their wavelength of maximum absorption always being in the region 489–502 nm.

Key words

EcologyGreat Barrier ReefLutjanidaeMicrospectrophotometryVisual pigments



dissolved organic carbon


dissolved organic material



Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. N. Lythgoe
    • 1
  • W. R. A. Muntz
    • 2
  • J. C. Partridge
    • 1
  • J. Shand
    • 3
  • D. McB. Williams
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Marine BiologyJames Cook UniversityTowns villeAustralia
  4. 4.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsville MCAustralia