The eyes of two glacial-relict populations of opossum shrimp Mysis relicta inhabiting the different photic environments of a deep, dark-brown freshwater lake and a variably lit bay of the Baltic Sea differ in their susceptibility to functional depression from strong light exposures. The lake population is much more vulnerable than the sea population. We hypothesized that the difference reflects physiological adaptation mechanisms operating on long time scales rather than genetically fixed differences between the populations. To test this, we studied how acclimation to ultra-slowly increased illumination (on time scales of several weeks to months) affected the resilience of the eyes to bright-light exposures. Light responses of whole eyes were measured by electroretinography, the visual-pigment content of single rhabdoms by microspectrophotometry, and the structural integrity of photoreceptor cells by electron microscopy (EM). Slow acclimation mitigated and even abolished the depression of photoresponsiveness caused by strong light exposures, making a dramatic difference especially in the lake animals. Still, acclimation in the sea animals was faster, and the EM studies suggested intrinsic differences in the dynamics of microvillar membrane cycling. In conclusion, we report a novel form of physiological adaptation to general light levels, effective on the time scale of seasonal changes. It explains part but not all of the differences in light tolerance between the lake and sea populations.
- Received December 21, 2016.
- Accepted May 16, 2017.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd