Coevolution of coloration and colour vision?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The evolutionary relationship between signals and animal senses has broad significance, with potential consequences for speciation, and for the efficacy and honesty of biological communication. Here we outline current understanding of the diversity of colour vision in two contrasting groups: the phylogenetically conservative birds, and the more variable butterflies. Evidence for coevolution of colour signals and vision exists in both groups, but is limited to observations of phenotypic differences between visual systems, which might be correlated with coloration. Here, to illustrate how one might interpret the evolutionary significance of such differences, we used colour vision modelling based on an avian eye to evaluate the effects of variation in three key characters: photoreceptor spectral sensitivity, oil droplet pigmentation and the proportions of different photoreceptor types. The models predict that physiologically realistic changes in any one character will have little effect, but complementary shifts in all three can substantially affect discriminability of three types of natural spectra. These observations about the adaptive landscape of colour vision may help to explain the general conservatism of photoreceptor spectral sensitivities in birds. This approach can be extended to other types of eye and spectra to inform future work on coevolution of coloration and colour vision. This article is part of the themed issue ‘Animal coloration: production, perception, function and application’.

Details

Authors
Organisations
External organisations
  • University of Queensland
  • University of Sussex
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Evolutionary Biology

Keywords

  • Adaptive landscape, Bird colour vision, Butterfly colour vision, Coloration, Colour vision, Evolution
Original languageEnglish
Article number20160338
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume372
Issue number1724
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes