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Repeated evolution: The same mutation occurred 20 times independently in fishes’ light-sensitive eye-protein.

Here we show that a missense mutation in rhodopsin (Phe261Tyr) is an adaptation to the red-shifted Baltic Sea light environment. The transition from phenylalanine to tyrosine differs only by the presence of a hydroxyl moiety in the latter, but this results in an up to 10-nm red-shifted light absorbance of the receptor. Remarkably, an examination of the rhodopsin sequences from 2,056 species of fish revealed that the same missense mutation has occurred independently and been selected for during at least 20 transitions between light environments across all fish. Our results provide a spectacular example of convergent evolution and how a single amino acid change can have a major effect on ecological adaptation.

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