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Data from: Reverting ontogeny: rapid phenotypic plasticity of color vision in cichlid fish

Cite this dataset

Härer, Andreas; Karagic, Nidal; Meyer, Axel; Torres-Dowdall, Julián (2019). Data from: Reverting ontogeny: rapid phenotypic plasticity of color vision in cichlid fish [Dataset]. Dryad.


Phenotypic plasticity, particularly during development, allows organisms to rapidly adjust to different environmental conditions. Yet, it is often unclear whether the extent and direction of plastic changes are restricted by an individual’s ontogeny. Many species of cichlid fishes go through ontogenetic changes in visual sensitivity, from short to long wavelengths, by switching expression of cone opsin genes crucial for color vision. During this progression, individuals often exhibit phenotypic plasticity to the ambient light conditions. However, it is commonly assumed that once an adult visual phenotype is reached, reverting to an earlier ontogenetic state with higher sensitivity at shorter wavelengths is not common. In this study, we experimentally demonstrate that four-month-old Midas cichlid fish (Amphilophus astorquii) show plasticity in single cone opsin expression after experiencing drastic changes in light conditions. Resulting shifts of visual sensitivity occurred presumably in an adaptive direction - towards shorter or longer wavelengths when exposed to short or long wavelength light, respectively. Single cone opsin expression changed within only a few days and went through a transitional phase of co-expression. When the environment was experimentally enriched in long wavelength light, the corresponding change occurred gradually along a dorsoventral gradient within the retina. This plasticity allowed individuals to revert earlier ontogenetic changes and return to a more juvenile visual phenotype demonstrating previously unrecognized insights into temporal and spatial dynamics of phenotypic plasticity of the visual system in response to ambient light.

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