Seasonal variation in UVA light drives hormonal and behavioural changes in a marine annelid via a ciliary opsin

Nat Ecol Evol. 2021 Feb;5(2):204-218. doi: 10.1038/s41559-020-01356-1. Epub 2021 Jan 11.


The right timing of animal physiology and behaviour ensures the stability of populations and ecosystems. To predict anthropogenic impacts on these timings, more insight is needed into the interplay between environment and molecular timing mechanisms. This is particularly true in marine environments. Using high-resolution, long-term daylight measurements from a habitat of the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii, we found that temporal changes in ultraviolet A (UVA)/deep violet intensities, more than longer wavelengths, can provide annual time information, which differs from annual changes in the photoperiod. We developed experimental set-ups that resemble natural daylight illumination conditions, and automated, quantifiable behavioural tracking. Experimental reduction of UVA/deep violet light (approximately 370-430 nm) under a long photoperiod (16 h light and 8 h dark) significantly decreased locomotor activities, comparable to the decrease caused by a short photoperiod (8 h light and 16 h dark). In contrast, altering UVA/deep violet light intensities did not cause differences in locomotor levels under a short photoperiod. This modulation of locomotion by UVA/deep violet light under a long photoperiod requires c-opsin1, a UVA/deep violet sensor employing Gi signalling. C-opsin1 also regulates the levels of rate-limiting enzymes for monogenic amine synthesis and of several neurohormones, including pigment-dispersing factor, vasotocin (vasopressin/oxytocin) and neuropeptide Y. Our analyses indicate a complex inteplay between UVA/deep violet light intensities and photoperiod as indicators of annual time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ecosystem
  • Opsins* / genetics
  • Photoperiod
  • Polychaeta*
  • Seasons


  • Opsins

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.73n5tb2vv