Deep-sea and pelagic rod visual pigments identified in the mysticete whales.
ABSTRACT Our current understanding of the spectral sensitivities of the mysticete whale rod-based visual pigments is based on two species, the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) and the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) possessing absorbance maxima determined from difference spectra to be 492 and 497 nm, respectively. These absorbance maxima values are blueshifted relative to those from typical terrestrial mammals (≈500 nm) but are redshifted when compared to those identified in the odontocetes (479-484 nm). Although these mysticete species represent two of the four mysticete families, they do not fully represent the mysticete whales in terms of foraging strategy and underwater photic environments where foraging occurs. In order to better understand the spectral sensitivities of the mysticete whale rod visual pigments, we have examined the rod opsin genes from 11 mysticete species and their associated amino acid substitutions. Based on the amino acids occurring at positions 83, 292, and 299 along with the directly determined dark spectra from expressed odontocete and mysticete rod visual pigments, we have determined that the majority of mysticete whales possess deep-sea and pelagic like rod visual pigments with absorbance maxima between 479 and 484 nm. Finally, we have defined the five amino acid substitution events that determine the resulting absorbance spectra and associated absorbance maxima for the mysticete whale rod visual pigments examined here.
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ABSTRACT: Cetacea (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) is a model group for investigating the molecular signature of macroevolutionary transitions. Recent research has begun to reveal the molecular underpinnings of the remarkable anatomical and behavioral transformation in this clade. This shift from terrestrial to aquatic environments is arguably the best-understood major morphological transition in vertebrate evolution. The ancestral body plan and physiology were extensively modified and, in many cases, these crucial changes are recorded in cetacean genomes. Recent studies have highlighted cetaceans as central to understanding adaptive molecular convergence and pseudogene formation. Here, we review current research in cetacean molecular evolution and the potential of Cetacea as a model for the study of other macroevolutionary transitions from a genomic perspective.Trends in Ecology & Evolution 05/2014; · 15.39 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Cetaceans have a long history of commitment to a fully aquatic lifestyle that extends back to the Eocene. Extant species have evolved a spectacular array of adaptations in conjunction with their deployment into a diverse array of aquatic habitats. Sensory systems are among those that have experienced radical transformations in the evolutionary history of this clade. In the case of vision, previous studies have demonstrated important changes in the genes encoding rod opsin (RH1), short-wavelength sensitive opsin 1 (SWS1), and long-wavelength sensitive opsin (LWS) in selected cetaceans, but have not examined the full complement of opsin genes across the complete range of cetacean families. Here, we report protein-coding sequences for RH1 and both color opsin genes (SWS1, LWS) from representatives of all extant cetacean families. We examine competing hypotheses pertaining to the timing of blue shifts in RH1 relative to SWS1 inactivation in the early history of Cetacea, and we test the hypothesis that some cetaceans are rod monochomats. Molecular evolutionary analyses contradict the "coastal" hypothesis, wherein SWS1 was pseudogenized in the common ancestor of Cetacea, and instead suggest that RH1 was blue-shifted in the common ancestor of Cetacea before SWS1 was independently knocked out in baleen whales (Mysticeti) and in toothed whales (Odontoceti). Further, molecular evidence implies that LWS was inactivated convergently on at least five occasions in Cetacea: (1) Balaenidae (bowhead and right whales), (2) Balaenopteroidea (rorquals plus gray whale), (3) Mesoplodon bidens (Sowerby's beaked whale), (4) Physeter macrocephalus (giant sperm whale), and (5) Kogia breviceps (pygmy sperm whale). All of these cetaceans are known to dive to depths of at least 100 m where the underwater light field is dim and dominated by blue light. The knockout of both SWS1 and LWS in multiple cetacean lineages renders these taxa rod monochromats, a condition previously unknown among mammalian species.PLoS Genetics 04/2013; 9(4):e1003432. · 8.52 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Studies of cichlid evolution have highlighted the importance of visual pigment genes in the spectacular radiation of the African rift lake cichlids. Recent work, however, has also provided strong evidence for adaptive diversification of riverine cichlids in the Neotropics, which inhabit environments of markedly different spectral properties from the African rift lakes. These ecological and/or biogeographic differences may have imposed divergent selective pressures on the evolution of the cichlid visual system. To test these hypotheses, we investigated the molecular evolution of the dim-light visual pigment, rhodopsin. We sequenced rhodopsin from Neotropical and African riverine cichlids, and combined these data with published sequences from African cichlids. We found significant evidence for positive selection using random sites codon models in all cichlid groups, with the highest levels in African lake cichlids. Tests using branch-site and clade models that partitioned the data along ecological (lake, river) and/or biogeographic (African, Neotropical) boundaries found significant evidence of divergent selective pressures among cichlid groups. However, statistical comparisons among these models suggest that ecological, rather than biogeographic, factors may be responsible for divergent selective pressures that have shaped the evolution of the visual system in cichlids. We found that branch-site models did not perform as well as clade models for our data set, in which there was evidence for positive selection in the background. One of our most intriguing results is that the amino acid sites found to be under positive selection in Neotropical and African lake cichlids were largely non-overlapping, despite falling into the same three functional categories: spectral tuning, retinal uptake/release, and rhodopsin dimerization. Taken together, these results would imply divergent selection across cichlid clades, but targeting similar functions. This study highlights the importance of molecular investigations of ecologically important groups, and the flexibility of clade models in explicitly testing ecological hypotheses.Molecular Biology and Evolution 02/2014; · 14.31 Impact Factor