From crypsis to mimicry: changes in colour and the configuration of the visual system during ontogenetic habitat transitions in a coral reef fish

Cortesi, Fabio, Musilova, Zuzana, Stieb, Sara M., Hart, Nathan S., Siebeck, Ulrike E., Cheney, K. L., Salzburger, Walter and Marshall, N. Justin (2016) From crypsis to mimicry: changes in colour and the configuration of the visual system during ontogenetic habitat transitions in a coral reef fish. Journal of Experimental Biology, 219 16: 2545-2558. doi:10.1242/jeb.139501

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Author Cortesi, Fabio
Musilova, Zuzana
Stieb, Sara M.
Hart, Nathan S.
Siebeck, Ulrike E.
Cheney, K. L.
Salzburger, Walter
Marshall, N. Justin
Title From crypsis to mimicry: changes in colour and the configuration of the visual system during ontogenetic habitat transitions in a coral reef fish
Journal name Journal of Experimental Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0022-0949
1477-9145
Publication date 2016-08-15
Year available 2016
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1242/jeb.139501
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 219
Issue 16
Start page 2545
End page 2558
Total pages 14
Place of publication Cambridge, United Kingdom
Publisher The Company of Biologists
Language eng
Subject 2700 Medicine
1314 Physiology
1105 Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
1104 Aquatic Science
1312 Molecular Biology
1103 Animal Science and Zoology
1109 Insect Science
Abstract Animals often change their habitat throughout ontogeny; yet, the triggers for habitat transitions and how these correlate with developmental changes - e.g. physiological, morphological and behavioural - remain largely unknown. Here, we investigated how ontogenetic changes in body coloration and of the visual system relate to habitat transitions in a coral reef fish. Adult dusky dottybacks, Pseudochromis fuscus, are aggressive mimics that change colour to imitate various fishes in their surroundings; however, little is known about the early life stages of this fish. Using a developmental time series in combination with the examination of wild-caught specimens, we revealed that dottybacks change colour twice during development: (i) nearly translucent cryptic pelagic larvae change to a grey camouflage coloration when settling on coral reefs; and (ii) juveniles change to mimic yellow- or brown-coloured fishes when reaching a size capable of consuming juvenile fish prey. Moreover, microspectrophotometric (MSP) and quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) experiments show developmental changes of the dottyback visual system, including the use of a novel adult-specific visual gene (RH2 opsin). This gene is likely to be co-expressed with other visual pigments to form broad spectral sensitivities that cover the medium-wavelength part of the visible spectrum. Surprisingly, the visual modifications precede changes in habitat and colour, possibly because dottybacks need to first acquire the appropriate visual performance before transitioning into novel life stages.
Formatted abstract
Animals often change their habitat throughout ontogeny; yet, the triggers for habitat transitions and how these correlate with developmental changes – e.g. physiological, morphological and behavioural – remain largely unknown. Here, we investigated how ontogenetic changes in body coloration and of the visual system relate to habitat transitions in a coral reef fish. Adult dusky dottybacks, Pseudochromis fuscus, are aggressive mimics that change colour to imitate various fishes in their surroundings; however, little is known about the early life stages of this fish. Using a developmental time series in combination with the examination of wild-caught specimens, we revealed that dottybacks change colour twice during development: (i) nearly translucent cryptic pelagic larvae change to a grey camouflage coloration when settling on coral reefs; and (ii) juveniles change to mimic yellow- or brown-coloured fishes when reaching a size capable of consuming juvenile fish prey. Moreover, microspectrophotometric (MSP) and quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) experiments show developmental changes of the dottyback visual system, including the use of a novel adult-specific visual gene (RH2 opsin). This gene is likely to be co-expressed with other visual pigments to form broad spectral sensitivities that cover the medium-wavelength part of the visible spectrum. Surprisingly, the visual modifications precede changes in habitat and colour, possibly because dottybacks need to first acquire the appropriate visual performance before transitioning into novel life stages.
Keyword Vision
Development
Gene Duplication
Opsin
Colour change
Co-expression
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Grant ID DP0558681
DP557285
Institutional Status UQ

 
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Created: Fri, 26 Aug 2016, 03:33:48 EST by Dr Karen Cheney on behalf of School of Biological Sciences