Correlation between nuptial colors and visual sensitivities tuned by opsins leads to species richness in sympatric Lake Victoria cichlid fishes

Ryutaro Miyagi, Yohey Terai, Mitsuto Aibara, Tohru Sugawara, Hiroo Imai, Hidenori Tachida, Semvua Isa Mzighani, Takashi Okitsu, Akimori Wada, Norihiro Okada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Reproductive isolation that prevents interspecific hybridization between closely related coexisting species maintains sympatric species diversity. One of the reproductive isolations is mate choice based on color signals (breeding color perceived by color vision). This is well known in several animal taxa, yet little is known about its genetic and molecular mechanism. Lake Victoria cichlid fishes are thought to be an example of sympatric species diversity. In the species inhabiting different light environments in rocky shore, speciation by sensory drive through color signals has been proposed by analyses of the long wavelength-sensitive (LWS) opsin gene and the male nuptial coloration. However, the genetic and molecular mechanism of how diversity of sympatric species occurring in the same habitat is maintained remains unknown. To address this issue, we determined nucleotide sequences of eight opsins of six sympatric species collected from a sandy-muddy shore-an ideal model system for studying sympatric species. Among eight opsins, the LWS and RH1 alleles were diversified and one particular allele is dominant or fixed in each species, and we propose that this is due to natural selection. The functions of their LWS alleles were also diversified as shown by absorption measurements of reconstituted visual pigments. To analyze the relationship between nuptial coloration and the absorption of LWS pigments, we systematically evaluated and defined nuptial coloration. We showed that the coloration was species specific with respect to hue and significantly differentiated by the index values of hue (dominant wavelength: λd). The λd value of the male nuptial coloration correlated with the absorption of LWS pigments from all the species, suggesting that reproductive isolation through mate choice using color signals may prevent sympatric interspecific hybridization, thereby maintaining the species diversity in sympatric species in Lake Victoria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3281-3296
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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