Cone spectral sensitivity in the harbor seal (<i>Phoca vitulina</i>) and implications for color vision

Crognale, MA, Levenson DH, Ponganis PJ, Deegan JF, Jacobs GH.  1998.  Cone spectral sensitivity in the harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) and implications for color vision. Canadian Journal of Zoology-Revue Canadienne De Zoologie. 76:2114-2118.

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monkey, pigment genes, retina


The retinas of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) contain two morphologically distinct photoreceptor types: rods and cones. The spectral properties of the cones have not been previously studied. The spectral sensitivities of the cones of harbor seals were measured using a retinal gross potential technique, flicker photometric electroretinography. We found a cone spectral sensitivity curve with a peak at about 510 nm. The shape of the spectral sensitivity curve remained invariant despite large changes in chromatic adaptation, implying that harbor seals have only a single cone photopigment. This means that harbor seals must lack color vision at photopic light levels. Any color discrimination in this species would have to be based on combined input from rods and cones and thus restricted to mesopic light levels. The spectral sensitivity of the cone pigment in the harbor seal is shifted to shorter wavelengths than those of terrestrial carnivores, consistent with adaptation to the aquatic photic environment.