Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Opsin proteins covalently bind to small molecular chromophores and each protein-chromophore complex is sensitive to particular wavelengths of light. Multiple opsins with different wavelength absorbance peaks are required for color vision. Comparing opsin responses is challenging at low light levels, explaining why color vision is often lost in nocturnal species. Here, we investigated opsin evolution in 27 phylogenetically diverse insect species including several transitions between photic niches (nocturnal, diurnal, and crepuscular). We find widespread conservation of five distinct opsin genes, more than commonly considered. These comprise one c-opsin plus four r-opsins (long wavelength sensitive or LWS, blue sensitive, ultra violet [UV] sensitive and the often overlooked Rh7 gene). Several recent opsin gene duplications are also detected. The diversity of opsin genes is consistent with color vision in diurnal, crepuscular, and nocturnal insects. Tests for positive selection in relation to photic niche reveal evidence for adaptive evolution in UV-sensitive opsins in day-flying insects in general, and in LWS opsins of day-flying Lepidoptera specifically.

Original publication




Journal article


Genome Biol Evol

Publication Date





579 - 587


adaptive evolution, arctiidae, butterfly, lepidoptera, molecular evolution, Animals, Evolution, Molecular, Genetic Variation, Insecta, Multigene Family, Opsins, Phylogeny, Ultraviolet Rays