Academic journal article Science and Children

How Freshwater Fish, Amphibians Navigate Murky Water

Academic journal article Science and Children

How Freshwater Fish, Amphibians Navigate Murky Water

Article excerpt

Scientists have long puzzled over how salmon and other freshwater fish and amphibians easily shift their vision from marine or terrestrial environments to the waters of inland streams. In such streams, mud, algae, and other particles filter out light from the blue end of the visual spectrum, creating a light environment that shifts to the red and infrared end of the spectrum.

A new study shows that to navigate the murkier freshwater streams and reach a spot to spawn, salmon have evolved a means to enhance their ability to see infrared light.

"We've discovered an enzyme that switches the visual systems of some fish and amphibians and supercharges their ability to see infrared light," says Joseph Corbo, senior author of the study. "For example, when salmon migrate from the ocean to inland streams, they turn on this enzyme, activating a chemical reaction that shifts the visual system, helping the fish peer more deeply into murky water."

The enzyme is closely linked to vitamin A, long known to promote good vision, especially in low light. The enzyme converts vitamin A1 to vitamin A2--the latter has remarkable properties to enhance the ability to see longer wavelength light such as red and infrared light. …

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