Divergent selection on opsins drives incipient speciation in Lake Victoria cichlids

Yohey Terai, Ole Seehausen, Takeshi Sasaki, Kazuhiko Takahashi, Shinji Mizoiri, Tohru Sugawara, Tetsu Sato, Masakatsu Watanabe, Nellie Konijnendijk, Hillary D.J. Mrosso, Hidenori Tachida, Hiroo Imai, Yoshinori Shichida, Norihiro Okada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

159 Citations (Scopus)


Divergent natural selection acting on ecological traits, which also affect mate choice, is a key element of ecological speciation theory, but has not previously been demonstrated at the molecular gene level to our knowledge. Here we demonstrate parallel evolution in two cichlid genera under strong divergent selection in a gene that affects both. Strong divergent natural selection fixed opsin proteins with different predicted light absorbance properties at opposite ends of an environmental gradient. By expressing them and measuring absorbance, we show that the reciprocal fixation adapts populations to divergent light environments. The divergent evolution of the visual system coincides with divergence in male breeding coloration, consistent with incipient ecological by-product speciation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2244-2251
Number of pages8
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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