Photoreceptors in animals are generally of two kinds: the ciliary or c-type and the rhabdomeric or r-type. Although ciliary photoreceptors are found in many phyla, vertebrates seem to be unique in having two distinct kinds which together span the entire range of vision, from single photons to bright light. We ask why the principal photoreceptors of vertebrates are ciliary and not rhabdomeric, and how rods evolved from less sensitive cone-like photoreceptors to produce our duplex retina. We suggest that the principal advantage of vertebrate ciliary receptors is that they use less ATP than rhabdomeric photoreceptors. This difference may have provided sufficient selection pressure for the development of a completely ciliary eye. Although many of the details of rod evolution are still uncertain, present evidence indicates that (i) rods evolved very early before the split between the jawed and jawless vertebrates, (ii) outer-segment discs make no contribution to rod sensitivity but may have evolved to increase the efficiency of protein renewal, and (iii) evolution of the rod was incremental and multifaceted, produced by the formation of several novel protein isoforms and by changes in protein expression, with no one alteration having more than a few-fold effect on transduction activation or inactivation.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Vision in dim light’.
One contribution of 17 to a theme issue ‘Vision in dim light’.
- Accepted October 2, 2016.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.