Multidimensional polarization sensitivity in damselfishes

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2003 Mar;189(3):213-20. doi: 10.1007/s00359-003-0392-4. Epub 2003 Mar 6.


Using electroretinogram recording and microspectrophotometry we investigated spectral sensitivity and ultraviolet polarization sensitivity in three species of coral reef fishes commonly known as damselfishes. Here we show that three species of damselfishes (three-spot damselfish, Dascyllus trimaculatus; blacktail damselfish, D. melanurus; and blue-green chromis, Chromis viridis) have four classes of cone photoreceptors (lambda(max) ranges: ultraviolet 357-367 nm; short wavelength-sensitive 469-478 nm; medium wavelength-sensitive 482-493 nm; long wavelength-sensitive 512-524 nm; rods 499-500 nm). The three species shared similar combined spectral sensitivity but surprisingly complicated and varied polarization sensitivity. Damselfish examined in this study have three and four channel polarization sensitivity, the most complex polarization sensitivity recorded for any vertebrate. Such capacity could play an important role in mediating a conspecific visual communication network utilizing polarized light signals in the coral reef environment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Electroretinography
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Linear Models
  • Models, Statistical
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Ultraviolet Rays