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Mège, P., Ödeen, A., Théry, M., Picard, D., & Secondi, J. (2015). Partial Opsin Sequences Suggest UV-Sensitive Vision is Widespread in Caudata. Evol. Biol., , 1–10.
Abstract: Ultraviolet (UV) vision exists in several animal groups. Intuitively, one would expect this trait to be favoured in species living in bright environments, where UV light is the most present. However, UV sensitivity, as deduced from sequences of UV photoreceptors and/or ocular media transmittance, is also present in nocturnal species, raising questions about the selective pressure maintaining this perceptual ability. Amphibians are among the most nocturnal vertebrates but their visual ecology remains poorly understood relative to other groups. Perhaps because many of these species breed in environments that filter out a large part of UV radiation, physiological and behavioural studies of UV sensitivity in this group are scarce. We investigated the extent of UV vision in Caudata, the order of amphibians with the most nocturnal habits. We could recover sequences of the UV sensitive SWS1 opsin in 40 out of 58 species, belonging to 6 families. In all of these species, the evidence suggests the presence of functional SWS1 opsins under purifying selection, potentially allowing UV vision. Interestingly, most species whose opsin genes failed to amplify exhibited particular ecological features that could drive the loss of UV vision. This likely wide distribution of functional UV photoreceptors in Caudata sheds a new light on the visual ecology of amphibians and questions the function of UV vision in nocturnal animal species.