Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 198, Issue 7, pp 495–510 | Cite as

Ultraviolet visual sensitivity in three avian lineages: paleognaths, parrots, and passerines

  • Zachary Aidala
  • Leon Huynen
  • Patricia L. R. Brennan
  • Jacob Musser
  • Andrew Fidler
  • Nicola Chong
  • Gabriel E. Machovsky Capuska
  • Michael G. Anderson
  • Amanda Talaba
  • David Lambert
  • Mark E. Hauber
Original Paper

Abstract

Ultraviolet (UV) light-transmitted signals play a major role in avian foraging and communication, subserving functional roles in feeding, mate choice, egg recognition, and nestling discrimination. Sequencing functionally relevant regions of the short wavelength sensitive type 1 (SWS1) opsin gene that is responsible for modulating the extent of SWS1 UV sensitivity in birds allows predictions to be made about the visual system’s UV sensitivity in species where direct physiological or behavioral measures would be impractical or unethical. Here, we present SWS1 segment sequence data from representative species of three avian lineages for which visually based cues for foraging and communication have been investigated to varying extents. We also present a preliminary phylogenetic analysis and ancestral character state reconstructions of key spectral tuning sites along the SWS1 opsin based on our sequence data. The results suggest ubiquitous ultraviolet SWS1 sensitivity (UVS) in both paleognaths, including extinct moa (Emeidae), and parrots, including the nocturnal and flightless kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), and in most, but not all, songbird (oscine) lineages, and confirmed violet sensitivity (VS) in two suboscine families. Passerine hosts of avian brood parasites were included both UVS and VS taxa, but sensitivity did not co-vary with egg rejection behaviors. The results should stimulate future research into the functional parallels between the roles of visual signals and the genetic basis of visual sensitivity in birds and other taxa.

Keywords

Avian communication Sensory ecology Perching birds SWS1 opsin Ultraviolet vision 

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (FASTA 35.7 kb)
359_2012_724_MOESM2_ESM.fasta (13 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (FASTA 12.7 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zachary Aidala
    • 1
    • 2
  • Leon Huynen
    • 3
  • Patricia L. R. Brennan
    • 4
  • Jacob Musser
    • 5
  • Andrew Fidler
    • 6
  • Nicola Chong
    • 7
  • Gabriel E. Machovsky Capuska
    • 8
  • Michael G. Anderson
    • 9
  • Amanda Talaba
    • 10
  • David Lambert
    • 3
  • Mark E. Hauber
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Biopsychology and Behavioral Neuroscience ProgramThe Graduate Center of City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyHunter College of City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Griffith School of Environment and the School of Biomolecular and Physical SciencesGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia
  4. 4.Department of BiologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  5. 5.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  6. 6.Cawthron InstituteNelsonNew Zealand
  7. 7.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  8. 8.Nutritional Ecology and Coastal-Marine Research Groups, Institute of Natural SciencesMassey UniversityAucklandNew Zealand
  9. 9.Behaviour, Ecology and Conservation Group, Institute of Natural SciencesMassey University at AlbanyAucklandNew Zealand
  10. 10.Lab of OrnithologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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