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Adaptive divergence of spectral sensitivity

Brightly colored males of freshwater fish are forced to find trade-offs between conspicuousness for sexual mates and cripticity for potential predators. Divergence in spectral sensitivity of prey and predators is one of the possible ways to solve this problem in its evolutionary development.

The maximums of spectral sensitivity in threespined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus (605 nm: Rowe et al., 2004), as prey, and perch, Perca fluviatilis (635 nm: Protasov, 1968), as natural predators, are strongly distanced. It means that for P. fluviatilis, as specialized observers in the longwave part of the spectrum, bright red breast and blue iris of G. aculeatus (Rowe et al., 2004) must look darker (that is cryptic) than for the owners of these colors. Similarly, the maximums of spectral sensitivity in pumpkinseed sunfish, Lepomis gibbosus (612 nm: Tamura & Niwa, 1967), as prey, and largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides (673 nm: Kawamura & Kishimoto, 2002), as natural predators, are distanced even more. So, for M. salmoides, with fine color vision in the far red part of the spectrum, conspicuous red iris and opercular flaps, all-important for breeding sunfish (Stacey & Chiszar, 1978), must be dimmer than for the sunfish exploited these signals.

Another way is the divergence of spectral sensitivity in the shortwave part of the spectrum.

Vision in the ultraviolet (UV) part of the spectrum (with the maximum of spectral sensitivity near 365 nm) affects female mate choice in threespined sticklebacks, G. aculeatus (Rick et. al., 2004; Boulcott et al., 2005; Rick et al., 2006). According to Leech & Johnsen (2009), however, ability to see in the UV region (with the maximum near 385 nm) occurs only in planktivorous individuals of Perca flavescence (or P. fluviatilis) disappearing in adult predatory fish.

Basic References

Boulcott P.D., Walton K., Braithwaite V.A. 2005. The role of ultraviolet wavelengths in the mate-choice decisions of female three-spined sticklebacks. Journal of Experimental Biology 208, 1453-1458

Kawamura G., Kishimoto T. 2002. Color vision, accomodation and visual acuity in the largemouth bass. Fisheries Science 68, 1041-1046

Leech D.M., Johnsen S. 2009. Light, Biological Receptors. Encyclopedia of Inland Waters. (Gene E. Likens, Editor), Oxford, Elsevier. Volume 2, 671-681

Protasov V.R., 1968. Vision and near orientation in fish. Israel program for scientific translations, Jerusalem

Rick I.P., Modarressie R., Bakker T.C.M. 2004. Male three-spined sticklebacks reflect in ultraviolet light. Behaviour 141, 1531-1541

Rick I.P., Modarressie R., Bakker T.C.M. 2006. UV wavelengths affect female mate choice in three-spined sticklebacks. Animal Behaviour 71, 307–313

Rowe M.P., Baube C.L., Loew E.R., Phillips J.B. 2004. Optimal mechanisms fo finding and selecting mates: how threespine stickleback (Gaserosteus aculeatus) should incode male throat colors. Journal of Comparative Physiology A190, 241-256

Stacey P.B., Chiszar D. 1978. Body color pattern and the aggressive behavior of male pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus) during the reproductive season. Behavior 64, 271-297

Tamura T., Niwa H. 1967. Spectral sensitivity and color vision of fish as indicated by S-potential. Comparative Biochemistry & Physiology 22, 745-754

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