Visual pigments of African cichlid fishes: evidence for ultraviolet vision from microspectrophotometry and DNA sequences

Vision Res. 2000;40(8):879-90. doi: 10.1016/s0042-6989(99)00238-2.


We have found evidence for ultraviolet visual capabilities in a Lake Malawi cichlid fish, Metriaclima zebra. Microspectrophotometry of single cones revealed a visual pigment with peak sensitivity at 368+/-4 nm. M. zebra also expresses a putative ultraviolet opsin gene whose sequence is closely related to the SWS-1 opsin for other fishes. Several other African cichlids have a functional copy of this UV gene in their genomic DNA, but do not appear to express this gene as adults. These results suggest that ultraviolet vision is important for some cichlid fishes. UV wavelengths should therefore be included in future studies of cichlid vision, behavior and color patterns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • Genome
  • Male
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Microspectrophotometry
  • Perches / genetics
  • Perches / physiology*
  • Retinal Pigments / radiation effects*
  • Rod Opsins / chemistry
  • Rod Opsins / genetics
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Retinal Pigments
  • Rod Opsins