Diurnal lighting patterns and habitat alter opsin expression and colour preferences in a killifish

Ashley M. Johnson, Shannon Stanis, Rebecca C. Fuller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spatial variation in lighting environments frequently leads to population variation in colour patterns, colour preferences and visual systems. Yet lighting conditions also vary diurnally, and many aspects of visual systems and behaviour vary over this time scale. Here, we use the bluefin killifish (Lucania goodei) to compare how diurnal variation and habitat variation (clear versus tannin-stained water) affect opsin expression and the preference to peck at different-coloured objects. Opsin expression was generally lowest at midnight and dawn, and highest at midday and dusk, and this diurnal variation was many times greater than variation between habitats. Pecking preference was affected by both diurnal and habitat variation but did not correlate with opsin expression. Rather, pecking preference matched lighting conditions, with higher preferences for blue at noon and for red at dawn/ dusk, when these wavelengths are comparatively scarce. Similarly, blue pecking preference was higher in tannin-stained water where blue wavelengths are reduced. In conclusion, L. goodei exhibits strong diurnal cycles of opsin expression, but these are not tightly correlated with light intensity or colour. Temporally variable pecking preferences probably result from lighting environment rather than from opsin production. These results may have implications for the colour pattern diversity observed in these fish.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20130886
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1763
StatePublished - Jul 22 2013


  • Behavioural preference
  • Colour vision
  • Contrast
  • Diurnal effects
  • Light
  • Opsin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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