Organisms Diversity & Evolution

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 241–250 | Cite as

All the better to see you with: a review of odonate color vision with transcriptomic insight into the odonate eye

  • Seth M. BybeeEmail author
  • K. Kaihileipihamekeola Johnson
  • Eben J. Gering
  • Michael F. Whiting
  • Keith A. Crandall


Although dragonflies and damselflies (Insecta: Odonata) represent some of the most advanced visual systems among insects, odonate visual systems are not as well understood as those of model or more economically important insects. Yet, with their large and complex eyes, aquatic and terrestrial life stages, entirely carnivorous lifestyle, exceptional mating behaviors, diversity in coloration, occupancy of diverse light environments, and adult success that is completely dependent on vision, it would seem studying the visual system of Odonata at the molecular level would yield highly rewarding scientific findings related to predator/prey interactions, the physiological and molecular shifts associated with ecological shifts in light environments, and the role of vision on behavioral ecology. Here, we provide a review of odonate color vision. The first odonate opsin sequences are published using a degenerate PCR approach for both dragonfly and damselfly lineages as well as a transcriptome approach for a single species of damselfly. These genetic data are combined with electrophysiology data from odonates to examine genotype/phenotype relationships in this visual system. Using these data, we present the first insights into the evolution and distribution of the visual pigments (opsins) among odonates. The integration of molecular and behavioral studies of odonate vision will help answer long-standing questions about how sensory systems and coloration may coevolve.


Mike May Festschrift Odonata Vision Opsins Color 



We are very grateful to the odonate community for their support of this work. We are particularly indebted to J. Abbott, S. Coleman and T. Davenport for providing images to support our figures that greatly improved the manuscript. We thank K. Tennessen and J. Ware for their encouragement and discussion along the way. We also thank M. May for his willingness to discuss and advance all aspects of odonate research, both the research presented herein and in our research broadly. We also thank E. Wilcox and the BYU DNA Sequencing Center for advice and the careful generation of the transcriptome data. This work was supported by the US National Science Foundation (MRI-0821728, IOS-1045243) and Brigham Young University.

Supplementary material

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Supplemental Figure S1 (DOCX 170 kb)
13127_2012_90_MOESM2_ESM.docx (170 kb)
Supplemental Figure S2 (DOCX 170 kb)
13127_2012_90_MOESM3_ESM.doc (37 kb)
Supplemental Figure S3 (DOC 37 kb)


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Copyright information

© Gesellschaft für Biologische Systematik 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seth M. Bybee
    • 1
    Email author
  • K. Kaihileipihamekeola Johnson
    • 1
  • Eben J. Gering
    • 2
  • Michael F. Whiting
    • 1
    • 3
  • Keith A. Crandall
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  2. 2.Integrative BiologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  3. 3.Monte L. Bean Life Science MuseumBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

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