Date of this Version
Opsins, combined with a chromophore, are the primary light-sensing molecules in animals and are crucial for color vision. Throughout animal evolution, duplications and losses of opsin proteins are common, but it is unclear what is driving these gains and losses. Light availability is implicated, and dim environments are often associated with low opsin diversity and loss. Correlations between high opsin diversity and bright environments, however, are tenuous. To test if increased light availability is associated with opsin diversification, we examined diel niche and identified opsins using transcriptomes and genomes of 175 butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera). We found 14 independent opsin duplications associated with bright environments. Estimating their rates of evolution revealed that opsins from diurnal taxa evolve faster—at least 13 amino acids were identified with higher dN/dS rates, with a subset close enough to the chromophore to tune the opsin. These results demonstrate that high light availability increases opsin diversity and evolution rate in Lepidoptera.
Sondhi, Yash; Ellis, Emily A.; Bybee, Seth M.; Theobald, Jamie C.; and Kawahara, Akito Y., "Light environment drives evolution of color vision genes in butterflies and moths" (2021). All Faculty. 294.