The importance of ultraviolet and near-infrared sensitivity for visual discrimination in two species of lacertid lizards.

Research paper by Mélissa M Martin, Jean-François JF Le Galliard, Sandrine S Meylan, Ellis R ER Loew

Indexed on: 20 Dec '14Published on: 20 Dec '14Published in: The Journal of experimental biology


Male and female Lacertid lizards often display conspicuous coloration that is involved in intraspecific communication. However, visual systems of Lacertidae have rarely been studied and the spectral sensitivity of their retinal photoreceptors remains unknown. Here, we characterise the spectral sensitivity of two Lacertid species from contrasting habitats: the wall lizard Podarcis muralis and the common lizard Zootoca vivipara. Both species possess a pure-cone retina with one spectral class of double cones and four spectral classes of single cones. The two species differ in the spectral sensitivity of the LWS cones, the relative abundance of UVS single cones (potentially more abundant in Z. vivipara) and the coloration of oil droplets. Wall lizards have pure vitamin A1-based photopigments, whereas common lizards possess mixed vitamin A1 and A2 photopigments, extending spectral sensitivity into the near infrared, which is a rare feature in terrestrial vertebrates. We found that spectral sensitivity in the UV and near infrared improves discrimination of small variations in throat coloration among Z. vivipara. Thus, retinal specialisations optimise chromatic resolution in common lizards, indicating that the visual system and visual signals might co-evolve.