Six opsins from the butterfly Papilio glaucus: molecular phylogenetic evidence for paralogous origins of red-sensitive visual pigments in insects

J Mol Evol. 2000 Aug;51(2):110-21. doi: 10.1007/s002390010071.


It has been hypothesized that the UV-, blue-, and green-sensitive visual pigments of insects were present in the common ancestor of crustaceans and insects, whereas red-sensitive visual pigments evolved later as a result of convergent evolution. This hypothesis is examined with respect to the placement of six opsins from the swallowtail butterfly Papilio glaucus (PglRh1-6) in relationship to 46 other insect, crustacean, and chelicerate opsin sequences. All basal relationships established with maximum parsimony analysis except two are present in the distance and maximum likelihood analyses. In all analyses, the six P. glaucus opsins fall into three well-supported clades, comprised, respectively, of ultraviolet (UV), blue, and long-wavelength (LW) pigments, which appear to predate the radiation of the insects. Lepidopteran green- and red-sensitive visual pigments form a monophyletic clade, which lends support to the hypothesis from comparative physiological studies that red-sensitive visual pigments in insects have paralogous origins. Polymorphic amino acid sites (180, 197, 277, 285, 308), which are essential for generating the spectral diversity among the vertebrate red- and green-sensitive pigments are notably invariant in the Papilio red- and green-sensitive pigments. Other major tuning sites must be sought to explain the spectral diversification among these and other insect visual pigments.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Butterflies / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genetic Variation
  • Introns
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny*
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Rod Opsins / genetics*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Rod Opsins

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF067080
  • GENBANK/AF077189
  • GENBANK/AF077190
  • GENBANK/AF077191
  • GENBANK/AF077192
  • GENBANK/AF077193