Earliest amphibians already had colour vision


This video is called Australian lungfish. ‘The most primitive type of lungfish swims around in the California Academy of Science (SF).’

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

First land animals saw world in colour

Anna Salleh

ABC Science Online

Thursday, 25 October 2007

The first creature to crawl out of the water probably had a technicolour view of the land, say Australian researchers.

Professor Shaun Collin and colleagues at the University of Queensland report their findings today in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

Seeing in colour is an advantage for animals as they can differentiate between prey, he says.

The researchers have been studying the retina of the Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri), a living fossil that dates back 400 million years.

These fish were hanging around in shallow waters just before the first land vertebrates evolved.

Lungfish have lungs and gills so can survive in and out of water. And many scientists believe they are the closest living relative to the first land vertebrates.

But amphibian, reptile, bird and mammal land vertebrates see in colour, and until recently scientists didn’t know much about the lungfish’s small eyes.

The researchers sequenced the gene responsible for opsin, the visual pigment in the photoreceptor cells of the lungfish retina.

They found all five photoreceptor genes that occur in various combinations in higher vertebrates.

These genes code for rods and cones, which enable the lungfish to see ultraviolet and visible light, both of which are useful in seeing prey.

The photoreceptors also allow the fish to see in dim and bright light.

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