Behavioural evidence for colour vision in an elasmobranch

Sarah M. Van-Eyk*, Ulrike E. Siebeck, Connor M. Champ, Justin Marshall, Nathan S. Hart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Little is known about the sensory abilities of elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays) compared with other fishes. Despite their role as apex predators in most marine and some freshwater habitats, interspecific variations in visual function are especially poorly studied. Of particular interest is whether they possess colour vision and, if so, the role(s) that colour may play in elasmobranch visual ecology. The recent discovery of three spectrally distinct cone types in three different species of ray suggests that at least some elasmobranchs have the potential for functional trichromatic colour vision. However, in order to confirm that these species possess colour vision, behavioural experiments are required. Here, we present evidence for the presence of colour vision in the giant shovelnose ray (Glaucostegus typus) through the use of a series of behavioural experiments based on visual discrimination tasks. Our results show that these rays are capable of discriminating coloured reward stimuli from other coloured (unrewarded) distracter stimuli of variable brightness with a success rate significantly different from chance. This study represents the first behavioural evidence for colour vision in any elasmobranch, using a paradigm that incorporates extensive controls for relative stimulus brightness. The ability to discriminate colours may have a strong selective advantage for animals living in an aquatic ecosystem, such as rays, as a means of filtering out surface-wave-induced flicker.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4186-4192
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume214
Issue number24
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes

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