Knockout Mice Are Guide to New Genes for Eye and Skin Disorders (IMAGE)

Through nature’s eyes: Study sheds light on how animals see colors

University of Arkansas biologists have improved scientists’ understanding of animal vision, particularly the colors they see, by collecting vision data from hundreds of vertebrates and invertebrates.

(Photo: Ala Moshiri, UC Davis)

Recent discovery

Researchers found that land-adapted animals could perceive more colors than creatures adapted to water. Animals acclimatized to open land environments perceive more colors than those accustomed to forests.

However, a species’ evolutionary history – particularly the distinction between vertebrates and invertebrates – has a substantial impact on the color it sees. Compared to vertebrates, invertebrates see shorter wavelengths of light.

These findings were recently published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B by PhD candidate in biological sciences Matt Murphy and assistant professor Erica Westerman. Their paper, “Evolutionary History Limits Species’ Ability to Match Color Sensitivity to Habitat’s Available Light,” discusses how environment, evolution, and to some extent genetic makeup influence the way animals see colors and the colors they see.

“For a long time, scientists have hypothesized that the eyesight of animals developed to match the hues of light prevalent in their habitats,” Westerman said. “However, this hypothesis is difficult to prove, and there is still so much we don’t know about animal vision.” “Collecting data for hundreds of species of animals living in diverse habitats is a monumental task, especially considering that invertebrates and vertebrates use different types of cells in their eyes to convert light energy into neural responses.”

Read also : Biomimicry: 4 ingenious modern technologies inspired by nature

Wavelength intensity

Baska Adult (IMAGE)

(Photo: The University of Portsmouth)

The wavelengths and intensity of light in a particular environment affect an animal’s ability to detect visual information. The spectrum of light an animal perceives is determined by the amount and wavelength sensitivity of a class of retinal proteins called opsins, which range from ultraviolet to far-red light.

On the other hand, invertebrates and vertebrates have phylogenetically unique opsins in their retinas, and scientists have yet to discover whether these opsins affect what the animals perceive or how they adapt to their light environment.

Murphy and Westerman studied the sight of 446 animal species from four branch. One of these phyla contained vertebrates or dorsal creatures like fish and humans. Invertebrates, or creatures without backbones, such as insects, squid, and jellyfish, have been found in the remaining phyla.

The study found that while animals adapt to their environment, their ability to adapt is biologically limited. While vertebrates and invertebrates use the same type of cell, opsins, to see, they build these cells distinctly. This physiological difference between vertebrates and invertebrates, known as ciliary opsins in vertebrates and invertebrate rhabdomeric opsins, could explain why invertebrates see short-wavelength light better. However, their habitat should allow vertebrates to see short-wavelength light.

Role of genetics


(Photo: Photo by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images)

According to Westerman, the discrepancy could be attributable to stochastic genetic changes in vertebrates but not invertebrates. These mutations can also reduce the amount of light animals can see.

“Our work addresses some core concerns, but it also raises new ones,” Murphy said. “We can do more to analyze variations in the anatomy of vertebrate and invertebrate retinas, or how their brains interpret visual information differently, and these are intriguing topics.”

Related article: Echidna and Platypus: Unraveling the Mystery of Australia’s Egg-Laying Mammals

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