High sensitivity to short wavelengths in a lizard and implications for understanding the evolution of visual systems in lizards

Leo J. Fleishman, Ellis R. Loew, Martin J. Whiting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Progress in developing animal communication theory is frequently constrained by a poor understanding of sensory systems. For example, while lizards have been the focus of numerous studies in visual signalling, we only have data on the spectral sensitivities of a few species clustered in two major clades (Iguania and Gekkota). Using electroretinography and microspectrophotometry, we studied the visual system of the cordylid lizard Platysaurus broadleyi because it represents an unstudied clade (Scinciformata) with respect to visual systems and because UV signals feature prominently in its social behaviour. The retina possessed four classes of single and one class of double cones. Sensitivity in the ultraviolet region (UV) was approximately three times higher than previously reported for other lizards. We found more colourless oil droplets (associated with UV-sensitive (UVS) and short wavelength-sensitive (SWS) photoreceptors), suggesting that the increased sensitivity was owing to the presence of more UVS photoreceptors. Using the Vorobyev-Osorio colour discrimination model, we demonstrated that an increase in the number of UVS photoreceptors significantly enhances a lizard's ability to discriminate conspecific male throat colours. Visual systems in diurnal lizards appear to be broadly conserved, but data from additional clades are needed to confirm this.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2891-2899
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume278
Issue number1720
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2011

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