Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 192, Issue 3, pp 301–313 | Cite as

Seasonal cycle in vitamin A1/A2-based visual pigment composition during the life history of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)

  • S. E. Temple
  • E. M. Plate
  • S. Ramsden
  • T. J. Haimberger
  • W.-M. Roth
  • C. W. HawryshynEmail author
Original Paper


Microspectrophotometry of rod photoreceptors was used to follow variations in visual pigment vitamin A1/A2 ratio at various life history stages in coho salmon. Coho parr shifted their A1/A2 ratio seasonally with A2 increasing during winter and decreasing in summer. The cyclical pattern was statistically examined by a least-squares cosine model, fit to the 12-month data sets collected from different populations. A1/A2 ratio varied with temperature and day length. In 1+ (>12 month old) parr the A2 to A1 shift in spring coincided with smoltification, a metamorphic transition preceding seaward migration in salmonids. The coincidence of the shift from A2 to A1 with both the spring increase in temperature and day length, and with the timing of seaward migration presented a challenge for interpretation. Our data show a shift in A1/A2 ratio correlated with season, in both 0+ (<12 months old) coho parr that remained in fresh water for another year and in oceanic juvenile coho. These findings support the hypothesis that the A1/A2 pigment pair system in coho is an adaptation to seasonal variations in environmental variables rather than to a change associated with migration or metamorphosis.


Rhodopsin Porphyropsin Chromophore Spectral absorption Fish 



We thank Drs. Ted Allison, Nicholas Roberts and Ms. Nicola Temple for useful discussions and comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We are indebted to the staff at Robertson Creek Hatchery, Kispiox River Hatchery and Target Marine Products for providing us with regular samples of fish and assistance with collecting wild coho. We would also like to thank Dr. Ron Tanasichuck and his crew for collecting ocean-going coho in summer, and the crew of the W.E. Ricker for allowing S.T. to join them for collection of ocean-going coho in winter. Funding for this project was provided by NSERC / SSHRC Major Collaborative Research Initiative, Coasts Under Stress grant (P.I. Rosemary Ommer, grant participant CWH), and a NSERC equipment grant to C.W.H. Experimental procedures were in compliance with the “Principles of animal care”, publication No. 86–23, revised 1985 of the National Institute of Health, and the guidelines set out by the Canadian Council for Animal Care.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. E. Temple
    • 1
    • 2
  • E. M. Plate
    • 1
    • 2
  • S. Ramsden
    • 1
    • 2
  • T. J. Haimberger
    • 1
    • 2
  • W.-M. Roth
    • 1
  • C. W. Hawryshyn
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of Education ResearchUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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