Intraspecific variation in retinal cone distribution in the bluefin killifish, Lucania goodei

R. C. Fuller, L. J. Fleishman, M. Leal, J. Travis, E. Loew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies of visual ecology have typically focused on differences among species while paying less attention to variation among populations and/or individuals. Here, we show that the relative abundance of UV, violet, yellow, and red cones varies between two populations of bluefin killifish, Lucania goodei. Animals from a spring population (high-transmission UV/blue light) have a higher frequency of UV and violet cones and a lower frequency of yellow and red cones than animals from a swamp population (low-transmission UV/blue light). Visual sensitivity does not vary significantly between the populations, but spring animals tend to be more sensitive in the UV/blue wavelengths (360-440 nm) and less sensitive in longer wavelengths (560-600 nm) than swamp animals. The results have two important implications. First, the tight conservation of functional regions of opsin genes across taxa does not imply that visual systems are constrained in their evolution; differential sensitivity can arise through differential expression of cone classes within the retina. Second, intraspecific visual signals in this species may evolve to maximize contrast between the signaler and the background (as opposed to brightness); males with blue anal fins are most abundant in swamp habitats where animals express fewer UV and violet cones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)609-616
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Fundulidae
  • Microspectrophotometry
  • Sensory drive
  • Ultraviolet vision
  • Visual ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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