Identification and characterization of visual pigments in caecilians, a group of limbless amphibians with rudimentary eyes that form the Order Gymnophiona.

Samantha M Mohun, W L Davies, J K Bowmaker, Davide Pisani, W Himstedt, David J Gower, D M Hunt, Mark Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

In comparison with the other amphibian orders, the Anura (frogs) and Urodela (salamanders), knowledge of the visual system of the snake-like Gymnophiona (caecilians) is relatively sparse. Most caecilians are fossorial with, as far as is known any surface activity occurring mainly at night. They have relatively small, poorly developed eyes and might be expected to possess detectable changes in the spectral sensitivity of their visual pigments. Microspectrophotometry was used to determine the spectral sensitivities of the photoreceptors in three species of caecilian, Rhinatrema bivittatum, Geotrypetes seraphini and Typhlonectes natans. Only rod opsin visual pigment, which may be associated with scotopic (dim light) vision when accompanied by other ‘rod- specific’ components of the phototransduction cascade, was found to be present. Opsin sequences were obtained from the eyes of two species of caecilian, Ichthyophis cf. kohtaoensis and T. natans. These rod opsins were regenerated in vitro with 11-cis retinal to give pigments with spectral sensitivity peaks close to 500nm. No evidence for cone photoreception, associated with diurnal and colour vision, was detected using molecular and physiological methods. Additionally, visual pigments are short-wavelength shifted in terms of the maximum absorption of light when compared with other amphibian lineages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3586-3592
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume213
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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