Colour vision in marine organisms

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2015 Oct;34:86-94. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2015.02.002. Epub 2015 Mar 2.


Colour vision in the marine environment is on average simpler than in terrestrial environments with simple or no colour vision through monochromacy or dichromacy. Monochromacy is found in marine mammals and elasmobranchs, including whales and sharks, but not some rays. Conversely, there is also a greater diversity of colour vision in the ocean than on land, examples being the polyspectral stomatopods and the many colour vision solutions found among reef fish. Recent advances in sequencing reveal more opsin (visual pigment) types than functionally useful at any one time. This diversity arises through opsin duplication and conversion. Such mechanisms allow pick-and-mix adaptation that tunes colour vision on a variety of very short non-evolutionary timescales. At least some of the diversity in marine colour vision is best explained as unconventional colour vision or as neutral drift.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquatic Organisms / physiology*
  • Color Vision / physiology*