The Spectral Sensitivity of Cone Vision in the Diurnal Murid, Rhabdomys pumilio

May 18, 2020 | Biology

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Annette E. Allen, Joshua W. Mouland, Jessica Rodgers, Beatriz Bano-Otalora, Ronald H. Douglas, Glen Jeffery, Anthony A. Vugler, Timothy M. Brown, and Robert J. Lucas

An animal's temporal niche – the time of day at which it is active – is known to drive a variety of adaptations in the visual system. This includes variations in the topography, spectral sensitivity and density of retinal photoreceptors, and changes in the eye's gross anatomy and spectral transmission characteristics. We have characterised visual spectral sensitivity in the murid rodent Rhabdomys pumilio (‘the four-striped grass mouse’), which is the same family as (nocturnal) mice and rats, but exhibits a strong diurnal niche. As is common in diurnal species, the Rhabdomys lens acts as a long-pass spectral filter, providing limited transmission of light <400nm. Conversely, we found strong sequence homologies with the Rhabdomys SWS and MWS opsins and those of related nocturnal species (mice and rats) whose SWS opsins are maximally sensitive in the near UV. We continued to assess in vivo spectral sensitivity of cone vision using electroretinography and multi-channel recordings from the visual thalamus. These revealed that responses across the human visible range could be adequately described by those of a single pigment (assumed to be MWS opsin) maximally sensitive ~500nm, but that sensitivity in the near UV required inclusion of a second pigment whose peak sensitivity lay well into the UV range (max <400nm, likely ~360nm). We therefore conclude that, despite the UV-filtering effects of the lens, the Rhabdomys retains an SWS pigment with a UV-A max. In effect, this somewhat paradoxical combination of long-pass lens and UV-A... Want to read more? Visit the Journal of Experimental Biology (JEB)​ Blog.

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