4 years ago

Adult plasticity in African Cichlids: Rapid changes in opsin expression in response to environmental light differences

Sri Pratima Nandamuri, Karen L. Carleton, Miranda R. Yourick
Phenotypic plasticity allows organisms to adapt quickly to local environmental conditions and could facilitate adaptive radiations. Cichlids have recently undergone an adaptive radiation in Lake Malawi where they inhabit diverse light environments and tune their visual sensitivity through differences in cone opsin expression. While cichlid opsin expression is known to be plastic over development, whether adults remain plastic is unknown. Adult plasticity in visual tuning could play a role in cichlid radiations by enabling survival in changing environments and facilitating invasion into novel environments. Here we examine the existence of and temporal changes in adult visual plasticity of two closely related species. In complementary experiments, wild adult Metriaclima mbenji from Lake Malawi were moved to the lab under UV-deficient fluorescent lighting; while lab raised M. benetos were placed under UV-rich lighting designed to mimic light conditions in the wild. Surprisingly, adult cichlids in both experiments showed significant changes in the expression of the UV-sensitive single cone opsin, SWS1, in only three days. Modeling quantum catches in the light environments revealed a possible link between the light available to the SWS1 visual pigment and SWS1 expression. We conclude that adult cichlids can undergo rapid and significant changes in opsin expression in response to environmental light shifts that are relevant to their habitat and evolutionary history in Lake Malawi. This could have contributed to the rapid divergence characteristic of these fantastic fishes. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/mec.14357

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