Home Discoveries Deep-Sea Fish Have Developed High-Definition Night Vision

Deep-Sea Fish Have Developed High-Definition Night Vision

Some species of fish were found to have an excess of genes allowing them to see in the dark depths of the ocean.

It may come as a shock that any of the bioluminescent creatures of the deep can see at all. For those scavenging on the ocean floor, eyesight has evolved in such a way that they are able to pick up a wide range of color hues in the dark. In fact, according to Zuzana Musilova of the University of Basel in Switzerland, “They have more sensitive eyes and can see way better than humans in lower light.”

Stylephorus chordatus uses five different rod opsins within its eyes. Original image credit: Dr. Wen-Sung Chung, University of Queensland, Australia. Edited by ScienceBinge graphics department.

Along with a group of colleagues, Musilova conducted a study by analyzing the DNA from over 25 species of sea life that reside along the ocean floor. A portion of these species was found to have extra genes for a specific protein that helps detect light. This light-sensitive protein is known as rod opsin.

As it turns out, most species, even humans, have only one of these genes. However, species of fish that live more than 2,000 meters below sea level have been found to have as many as 38 of these genes.

While Musilova and her colleagues conducted experiments on the opsins, they discovered that the genes reacted to a range of colors but most specifically green and blue. In fact, their research indicates that sea life can see more shades of green and blue than humans.

According to the scientist, this could be a highly beneficial tool for the creatures to be able to tell the difference between predators and prey.

Reference:

Musilova, Z., Cortesi, F., Matschiner, M., Davies, W. I. L., Patel, J. S., Stieb, S. M., … Salzburger, W. (2019). Vision using multiple distinct rod opsins in deep-sea fishes. Science, 364(6440), 588–592. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aav4632

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