Characterization of the long-wavelength opsin from Mecoptera and Siphonaptera: does a flea see?Mol Biol Evol. 2005 May; 22(5):1165-74.MB
Mecoptera and Siphonaptera represent two insect orders that have largely been overlooked in the study of insect vision. Recent phylogenetic evidence demonstrates that Mecoptera (scorpionflies) is paraphyletic, with the order Siphonaptera (fleas) nesting as sister to the family Boreidae (snow fleas), showing an evolutionary trend towards reduction in gross eye morphology within fleas. We provide the first molecular characterization of long-wavelength opsins from these three lineages (opsin gene from fleas [FL-Opsin], the Boreidae [B-Opsin], and a mecopteran family [M-Opsin]) and assess the effects of loss of visual acuity on the structure and function of the opsin gene. Phylogenetic analysis implies a physiological sensitivity in the red-green spectrum for these opsins. Analysis of intron splice sites reveals a high degree of similarity between FL-Opsin and B-Opsin as well as conserved splice sites across insect blue-green and long-wavelength opsins. Calculated rates of evolution and tests for destabilizing selection indicate that FL-Opsin, B-Opsin, and M-Opsin are evolving at similar rates with no radical selective pressures, implying conservative evolution and functional constraint across all three lineages.