Spectral tuning by selective chromophore uptake in rods and cones of eight populations of nine-spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius)

Pia Saarinen, Johan Pahlberg, Gabor Herczeg, Martta Viljanen, Marika Karjalainen, Takahito Shikano, Juha Merilä, Kristian Donner

Research output: Article

15 Citations (Scopus)


The visual pigments of rods and cones were studied in eight Fennoscandian populations of nine-spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius). The wavelength of maximum absorbance of the rod pigment (γ.max) varied between populations from 504 to 530?nm. Gene sequencing showed that the rod opsins of all populations were identical in amino acid composition, implying that the differences were due to varying proportions of chromophores A1 and A2. Four spectral classes of cones were found (two Scones, M-cones and L-cones), correlating with the four classes of vertebrate cone pigments. For quantitative estimation of chromophore proportions, we considered mainly rods and M-cones. In four populations, spectra of both photoreceptor types indicated A2 dominance (population mean γ.max=525-530?nm for rods and 535-544?nm for M-cones). In the four remaining populations, however, rod spectra (mean γ.max=504-511?nm) indicated strong A1 dominance, whereas M-cone spectra (mean γ.max=519-534?nm) suggested substantial fractions of A2. Quantitative analysis of spectra by three methods confirmed that rods and cones in these populations use significantly different chromophore proportions. The outcome is a shift of M-cone spectra towards longer wavelengths and a better match to the photic environment (light spectra peaking >560?nm in all the habitats) than would result from the chromophore proportions of the rods. Chromophore content was also observed to vary partly independently in M-and L-cones with potential consequences for colour discrimination. This is the first demonstration that selective processing of chromophore in rods and cones, and in different cone types, may be ecologically relevant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2760-2773
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - aug. 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science

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