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Habitat light sets the boundaries for the rapid evolution of cichlid fish vision, while sexual selection can tune it within those limits


Schneider, Ralf Friedrich; Rometsch, Sina; Torres-Dowdall, Julian; Meyer, Axel (2020), Habitat light sets the boundaries for the rapid evolution of cichlid fish vision, while sexual selection can tune it within those limits, Dryad, Dataset,


Cichlid fishes’ famous diversity in body coloration is accompanied by a highly diverse and complex visual system. Although cichlids possess an unusually high number of seven cone opsin genes, they express only a subset of these during their ontogeny, accounting for their astonishing interspecific variation in visual sensitivities. Much of this diversity is thought to have been shaped by natural selection as cichlids inhabit a variety of habitats with distinct light environments. Also, sexual selection might have contributed to the observed visual diversity, and sexual dimorphism in coloration potentially co-evolved with sexual dimorphism in opsin expression. We investigated sex-specific opsin expression of several cichlids from Africa and the Neotropics and collected and integrated datasets on sex-specific body coloration, species-specific visual sensitivities, lens transmission and habitat light properties for some of them. We comparatively analyzed this wide range of molecular and ecological data, illustrating how integrative approaches can address specific questions on the factors and mechanisms driving diversification, and the evolution of cichlid vision in particular. We found that both sexes expressed opsins at the same levels - even in sexually dimorphic cichlid species – which argues against coevolution of sexual dichromatism and differences in sex-specific visual sensitivity. Rather, a combination of environmental light properties and body coloration shaped the diversity in spectral sensitivities among cichlids. We conclude that although cichlids are particularly colorful and diverse and often sexually dimorphic, it would appear that natural rather than sexual selection is a more powerful force driving visual diversity in this hyper-diverse lineage.


expression_data.csv: qRT-PCR values of investigated cichlid individuals and standardized expression considering the slightly variable efficiency values of used primers.

lens_transmission_individually.csv: individuals' raw relative lens transmission dataset (prior standardization). Measured with a Optics USB2000-UV-VIS-ES photospectrometer.

raw_reflectance.csv: individuals' raw relative reflectance values for investigated measurement spots. Measured with a Optics USB2000-UV-VIS-ES photospectrometer.


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