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Early evolution of multifocal optics for well-focused colour vision in vertebrates.

  • Ola Gustafsson
  • S P Collin
  • Ronald Kröger
Publishing year: 2008
Language: English
Pages: 1559-1564
Publication/Series: Journal of Experimental Biology
Volume: 211
Issue: 10
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: The Company of Biologists Ltd

Abstract english

Jawless fishes (Agnatha; lampreys and hagfishes) most closely resemble the earliest stage in vertebrate evolution and lamprey-like animals already existed in the Lower Cambrian [about 540 million years ago (MYA)]. Agnathans are thought to have separated from the main vertebrate lineage at least 500 MYA. Hagfishes have primitive eyes, but the eyes of adult lampreys are well-developed. The southern hemisphere lamprey, Geotria australis, possesses five types of opsin genes, three of which are clearly orthologous to the opsin genes of jawed vertebrates. This suggests that the last common ancestor of all vertebrate lineages possessed a complex colour vision system. In the eyes of many bony fishes and tetrapods, well-focused colour images are created by multifocal crystalline lenses that compensate for longitudinal chromatic aberration. To trace the evolutionary origins of multifocal lenses, we studied the optical properties of the lenses in four species of lamprey (Geotria australis, Mordacia praecox, Lampetra fluviatilis and Petromyzon marinus), with representatives from all three of the extant lamprey families. Multifocal lenses are present in all lampreys studied. This suggests that the ability to create well-focused colour images with multifocal optical systems also evolved very early.


  • Zoology
  • longitudinal spherical aberration
  • longitudinal chromatic aberration
  • lens
  • multifocal
  • colour vision
  • evolution
  • lamprey.


  • ISSN: 1477-9145
Ola Gustafsson
E-mail: ola [dot] gustafsson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Research engineer

Functional zoology

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Research group

Lund Vision Group