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Evolutionary ecology of opsin gene sequence, expression and repertoire.

  • Author(s): Owens, Gregory L
  • Rennison, Diana J
  • et al.

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Linking molecular evolution to biological function is a long-standing challenge in evolutionary biology. Some of the best examples of this involve opsins, the genes that encode the molecular basis of light reception. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, three studies examine opsin gene sequence, expression and repertoire to determine how natural selection has shaped the visual system. First, Escobar-Camacho et al. () use opsin repertoire and expression in three Amazonian cichlid species to show that a shift in sensitivity towards longer wavelengths is coincident with the long-wavelength-dominated Amazon basin. Second, Stieb et al. () explore opsin sequence and expression in reef-dwelling damselfish and find that UV- and long-wavelength vision are both important, but likely for different ecological functions. Lastly, Suvorov et al. () study an expansive opsin repertoire in the insect order Odonata and find evidence that copy number expansion is consistent with the permanent heterozygote model of gene duplication. Together these studies emphasize the utility of opsin genes for studying both the local adaptation of sensory systems and, more generally, gene family evolution.

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