5 years ago

Rapid adaptation to a novel light environment: The importance of ontogeny and phenotypic plasticity in shaping the visual system of Nicaraguan Midas cichlid fish (Amphilophus citrinellus spp.)

Julián Torres-Dowdall, Axel Meyer, Andreas Härer
Colonization of novel habitats is typically challenging to organisms. In the initial stage after colonization, approximation to fitness optima in the new environment can occur by selection acting on standing genetic variation, modification of developmental patterns or phenotypic plasticity. Midas cichlids have recently colonized crater Lake Apoyo from great Lake Nicaragua. The photic environment of crater Lake Apoyo is shifted towards shorter wavelengths compared to great Lake Nicaragua and Midas cichlids from both lakes differ in visual sensitivity. We investigated the contribution of ontogeny and phenotypic plasticity in shaping the visual system of Midas cichlids after colonizing this novel photic environment. To this end, we measured cone opsin expression both during development and after experimental exposure to different light treatments. Midas cichlids from both lakes undergo ontogenetic changes in cone opsin expression, but visual sensitivity is consistently shifted towards shorter wavelengths in crater lake fish, which leads to a paedomorphic retention of their visual phenotype. This shift might be mediated by lower levels of thyroid hormone in crater lake Midas cichlids (measured indirectly as dio2 and dio3 gene expression). Exposing fish to different light treatments revealed that cone opsin expression is phenotypically plastic in both species during early development, with short and long wavelength light slowing or accelerating ontogenetic changes, respectively. Notably, this plastic response was maintained into adulthood only in the derived crater lake Midas cichlids. We conclude that the rapid evolution of Midas cichlids’ visual system after colonizing crater Lake Apoyo was mediated by a shift in visual sensitivity during ontogeny and was further aided by phenotypic plasticity during development.

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

DOI: 10.1111/mec.14289

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