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Vision Res. 1996 May;36(9):1217-24.

Spectral tuning and molecular evolution of rod visual pigments in the species flock of cottoid fish in Lake Baikal.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, University College London, U.K.


Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia is the deepest and one of the largest and most ancient lakes in the world. However, even in the deepest regions, oxygenation levels do not fall below 75-80% of the surface levels. This has enabled a remarkable flock of largely endemic teleost fish of the sub-order Cottoidei to colonize all depth habitats. We have previously shown that species that occupy progressively deeper habitats show a blue shift in the peak wavelength of absorbance (lambda max) of both their rod and cone visual pigments; for the rod pigments, a number of stepwise shifts occur from about 516 nm in littoral species to about 484 nm in abyssal species. By sequencing the rod opsin gene from 11 species of Baikal cottoids that include representatives from all depth habitats, we have been able to identify four amino acid substitutions that would account for these shifts. The effect of each substitution on lambda max is approximately additive and each corresponds to a particular lineage of evolution.

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