Fishes often have cone photoreceptors organized in lattice-like mosaic formations. In flatfishes, these lattices undergo dramatic changes during metamorphosis whereby a honeycomb mosaic of single cones in the larva is replaced by a square mosaic of single and double cones in the adult. The spatio-temporal dynamics of this transition are not well understood. Here, we describe the photoreceptors and mosaic formations that occur during the larva to juvenile transition of Atlantic halibut from the beginning of eye migration to its completion. To gauge the possibility of colour vision, visual pigments in juveniles were measured by microspectrophotometry and the opsin repertoire explored using bioinformatics. At the start of eye migration, the larva had a heterogeneous retina with honeycomb mosaic in the dorsonasal and ventrotemporal quadrants and a square mosaic in the ventronasal and dorsotemporal quadrants. By the end of metamorphosis, the square mosaic was present throughout the retina except in a centrodorsotemporal area where single, double and triple cones occurred randomly. Six cone visual pigments were found with maximum absorbance (λmax, in nm) in the short [S(431) and S(457)], middle [M(500), M(514) and M(527)], and long [L(550)] wavelengths, and a rod visual pigment with λmax at 491 nm. These pigments only partially matched the opsin repertoire detected by query of the Atlantic halibut genome. We conclude that the Atlantic halibut undergoes a complex re-organization of photoreceptors at metamorphosis resulting in a multi-mosaic retina adapted for a demersal life style.
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