Visual pigments and the labile scotopic visual system of fish

Vision Res. 1984;24(11):1563-73. doi: 10.1016/0042-6989(84)90314-6.


Among mammals, birds, most reptiles and chondrichthians, only rhodopsins are present. Among agnathans, osteichthians, amphibians and certain freshwater turtles there are species having only porphyropsins or only rhodopsins or, more interestingly, both pigments, either sequentially or together. This latter grouping represents the paired-pigment species. Associated with the presence of paired-pigments is the possibility that the proportions of rhodopsin and porphyropsin may change. Depending on the characteristics of each paired-pigment species, naturally occurring changes in visual pigment ratios are related to migrations in anadromous and catadromous teleosts and anadromous cyclostomes and to seasonal variation in several teleosts. In addition, the visual pigment composition of certain species of teleosts has been altered by the specific effects of light, temperature, diet and hormones. Of two possible mechanisms for altering spectral sensitivity, varying the proportion of rhodopsin and porphyropsin is far more common than utilizing a single chromophore and changing the opsin. In addition to the long established evidence that extractable rod pigment ratios may change during the life cycle or in response to specific exogenous factors, there is the more recent recognition from microspectrophotometry that cone pigment ratios may also change in concert. The effect of lighting conditions and temperature on the visual pigment composition of certain paired-pigment species is presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Dark Adaptation*
  • Environment
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Light
  • Phylogeny
  • Retinal Pigments / physiology*
  • Rhodopsin / physiology*
  • Seasons
  • Temperature


  • Retinal Pigments
  • porphyropsin
  • Rhodopsin