New research deepens understanding of how animals see and what colors – ScienceDaily

By collecting vision data for hundreds of vertebrates and invertebrates, University of Arkansas biologists have deepened scientists’ understanding of animal vision, including the colors they see.

Researchers have found that land-adapted animals are able to see more colors than water-adapted animals. Animals adapted to open terrestrial habitats see a wider range of colors than animals adapted to forests.

However, evolutionary history – mainly the difference between vertebrates and invertebrates – significantly influences which colors a species sees. Invertebrates see more short wavelengths of light than vertebrates.

Matt Murphy, Ph.D., and Erica Westerman, an assistant professor, recently published these findings in Notices of the Royal Society B. Their article, “Evolutionary History Limits the Ability of Species to Match Color Sensitivity to Available Habitat Light,” explains how the environment, evolution, and, to some extent, genetic makeup affect how and what colors animals see.

“Scientists have long speculated that animal vision evolved to match the colors of light present in their environment,” Westerman said. “But this hypothesis is difficult to prove and we still don’t know that much about animal vision. Collecting data on hundreds of species of animals living in a wide range of habitats is a monumental task, especially given that invertebrates and vertebrates use different cell types in their eyes to convert light energy into neural responses. “

The ability of an animal to detect visual information depends on the wavelength and intensity of light in a given environment. The amount and sensitivity to the wavelength of a family of retinal proteins called opsins control the spectrum of light that the animal sees, from ultraviolet to far red light.

However, invertebrates and vertebrates use phylogenetically different opsins in their retinas, and researchers have not determined whether these different opsins affect what animals see or how they adapt to their light environment.

Murphy and Westerman collected vision data for 446 species of animals, covering four types. One of these species contains vertebrates – animals that have vertebrates, such as fish and humans. The rest of these fillets contain animals that are invertebrates, those that do not have vertebrates, such as insects, squid and jellyfish.

The researchers’ study showed that although animals adapt to the environment, their ability to adapt may be physiologically limited. While vertebrates and invertebrates typically use the same type of opsin cells to see, they build these cells differently. This physiological difference – what biologists call ciliary opsins in vertebrates and rhabdomer opsins in invertebrates – may explain why invertebrates are better at seeing short-wavelength light, even when the habitat has to choose vertebrates to see and short wavelengths of light.

However, the difference may be due to stochastic genetic mutations that occur in vertebrates, but not in invertebrates, Westerman said. These mutations can also limit the range of light in vertebrate animals.

“Our research answers some important questions,” Murphy said, “but it also generates more questions that could help us understand animal vision even better. We can do more to assess differences in retinal structure.” of vertebrates and invertebrates or how their brains handle visual information differently. These are exciting questions. “

Source of history:

Materials provided by University of Arkansas. Original, written by Matt McGowan. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.

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