, Volume 157, Issue 3, pp 323-333

The visual pigment sensitivity hypothesis: further evidence from fishes of varying habitats

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Visual pigments were extracted from the retinas of 8 species of marine teleosts and 4 species of elasmobranchs and a comparison was made of the pigment properties from these fishes, some inhabiting surface waters, others from the mesopelagic zone, and a few migrating vertically between these two environments. An association was found between the spectral position of the absorbance curve and the habitat depth or habitat behavior, with the blue-shifted chrysopsins being the pigments of the twilight zone fishes and the rhodopsins with fishes living near the surface. The retina of the swell shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) yielded extracts with two photopigments; one, a rhodopsin at 498 nm; the second, a chrysopsin at 478 nm. This fish has been reported to practice seasonal vertical migrations between the surface and the mesopelagic waters. In addition to the spectral absorbance, several properties of these visual pigments were examined, including the meta-III product of photic bleaching, regeneration with added 11-cis and 9-cis retinals, and the chromophoric photosensitivity. The chrysopsin properties were found to be fundamentally similar to those of typical vertebrate rhodopsins. Correlating the spectral data with the habitat and habitat behavior of our fishes gives us confidence in the idea that the scotopic pigments have evolved as adaptations to those aspects of their color environment that are critical to the survival of the species.