Image by Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service via Flickr CC2.0

Female threespine stickleback (Image by Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service via Flickr CC2.0)

Colour vision can evolve to be better adapted to a particular environment in as little as 12,000 years. Authors of a new study out of UBC found that different populations of the threespine stickleback, a small fish that is able to live in fresh- or saltwater, have evolved to see different colours better depending on their environment. Researchers found freshwater stickleback are better at seeing blues and greens, while stickleback living in the ocean are better at seeing violets. The research team additionally raised offspring of these populations in the laboratory and found the changes in vision are genetically determined, instead of being formed in the environment. The team examined 11 populations of threespine sticklebacks from the Strait of Georgia region in British Columbia.


Diana J. Rennison, Gregory L. Owens, Nancy Heckman, Dolph Schluter, Thor Veen

Corresponding Canadian author:

Diana J. Rennison, Department of Zoology and Biodiversity Research Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Original paper, published on May 4, 2016 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Associated news release from the University of British Columbia.