Microhabitats a major factor in evolution of fish vision

25 February 2020



Is your vision affected by where you live?

Queensland Brain Institute researcher Dr Martin Luehrmann helped uncover part of that answer after discovering the vision of certain reef fish were impacted by their choice of habitat.

Colour vision may differ between different species of the same family depending on the microhabitats they occupy, Dr Luehrmann and his team found.

Among all vertebrates, fish show the greatest diversity of colour vision systems.

However, very little is understood about the functions of these diverse colour senses and which forces may shape, or still are shaping, colour vision evolution in this group.

In this study, Dr Luehrmann looked into the possible effects of habitat diversity, and how they are used , on the evolution of colour vision systems in closely related coral reef fish.

While such effects were already known to influence fish vision on large-scale habitat differences, for instance reef flat versus open ocean, this research looked towards the other end of the scale, at differences between microhabitats.

These microhabitats may only be centimetres apart, such as above coral versus underneath it, or above a branching coral versus between the branches.

These results are an important step towards understanding the role environmental factors play in determining the dynamics of visual system evolution – and possibly speciation – in the most diverse group of all vertebrate animals.

The study is published in Functional Ecology: British Ecological Society.