Evolution

Dropping opsin function

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Science  25 Jan 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6425, pp. 361-362
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6425.361-c

Noctilionoid bats, including the fishing bat shown, have complex mechanisms for eye pigment evolution.

PHOTO: CHRISTIAN ZIEGLER/MINDEN PICTURES

Opsin genes encode photoreceptor proteins that enable perception of dim light by rod cells and color by cone cells in the eye. Cone-opsin loss during the evolution of mammals and reduction in color sensitivity has become a textbook example of rapid trait loss. Sadier et al. examined not only the retention and loss of opsin genes but also their transcripts and proteins in an ecologically diverse group of bats (Noctilionoidea). This taxon ranges from night- and day-flying insectivores and fruit eaters to vampires. They found parallel losses of shortwave opsin pigments in many neotropical species. The changes seen in opsin function resulted not only from mutation but also from variation in transcripts, failures in translation, and protein polymorphisms. This work lends a cautionary note to simple genotype-to-phenotype mapping studies.

eLife 7, e37412 (2018).

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