Spectral sensitivities of photoreceptors and their role in colour discrimination in the green-backed firecrown hummingbird (Sephanoides sephaniodes)

Gonzalo Herrera, Juan Cristóbal Zagal, Marcelo Diaz, Maria José Fernández, Alex Vielma, Michel Cure, Jaime Martinez, Francisco Bozinovic, Adrián G. Palacios

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We studied the photopic spectral sensitivity in the green-backed firecrown, Sephanoides sephaniodes, a South American hummingbird, and its possible ecological relationship with preferred flowers and body colouration. Avian colour vision is in general tetrachromatic with at least four types of cones, which vary in sensitivity from the near ultraviolet (UV) to the red wavelength range. Hummingbirds represent an important family of birds, yet little is known about their eye sensitivity, especially about the role of photoreceptors and their oil droplet complements. The photopic electroretinogram shows a main sensitivity peak at 560 nm and a secondary peak in the UV, and may be explained by the presence of four single cones (λmax at ∼370, 440, 508 and 560 nm), and a double cone (λmax at 560 nm) screened by oil droplets. The flowers preferred by the firecrown are those in which the red-green wavelength region predominates and have higher contrast than other flowers. The crown plumage of males is highly iridescent in the red wavelength range (peak at 650 nm) and UV; when plotted in a high-dimensional tetrachromatic space, it falls in a "red + UV" purple hue line, suggesting a potential significant communication signal for sexual differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)785-794
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Volume194
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Electroretinogram
  • Hummingbird
  • Neotropical bird
  • Spectral reflectance
  • Tetrachromatic vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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