Overcoming the loss of blue sensitivity through opsin duplication in the largest animal group, beetles


Opsin proteins are fundamental components of animal vision whose structure largely determines the sensitivity of visual pigments to different wavelengths of light. Surprisingly little is known about opsin evolution in beetles, even though they are the most species rich animal group on Earth and exhibit considerable variation in visual system sensitivities. We reveal the patterns of opsin evolution across 62 beetle species and relatives. Our results show that the major insect opsin class (SW) that typically confers sensitivity to "blue" wavelengths was lost ~300 million years ago, before the origin of modern beetles. We propose that UV and LW opsin gene duplications have restored the potential for trichromacy (three separate channels for colour vision) in beetles up to 12 times and more specifically, duplications within the UV opsin class have likely led to the restoration of "blue" sensitivity up to 10 times. This finding reveals unexpected plasticity within the insect visual system and highlights its remarkable ability to evolve and adapt to the available light and visual cues present in the environment.

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Scientific Reports