Body reflections in the ultraviolet (UV) are a common occurrence in nature. Despite the abundance of such signals and the presence of UV cones in the retinas of many vertebrates, the function of UV cones in the majority of taxa remains unclear. Here, we report on an unusual communication system in the razorback sucker, Xyrauchen texanus, that involves flash signals produced by quick eye rolls. Behavioural experiments and field observations indicate that this form of communication is used to signal territorial presence between males. The flash signal shows highest contrast in the UV region of fhe visual spectrum (??max???380 nm), corresponding to the maximum wavelength of absorption of the UV cone mechanism in suckers. Furthermore, these cones are restricted to the dorsal retina of the animal and the upwelling light background is such that their relative sensitivity would be enhanced by chromatic adaptation of the other cone mechanisms. Thus, the UV cones in the sucker have optimal characteristics (both in terms of absorbance and retinal topography) to constitute the main detectors of the flash signal. Our findings provide the first ecological evidence for restricted distribution of UV cones in the retina of a vertebrate. ?? 2007 The Royal Society.