Background The vertebrate opsins are proteins which utilise a retinaldehyde chromophore in their photosensory or photoisomerase roles in the visual/irradiance detection cycle. The majority of the opsins, such as rod and cone opsins, have a very highly conserved gene structure suggesting a common lineage. Exceptions to this are RGR-opsin and melanopsin, whose genes have very different intron insertion positions. The gene structure of another opsin, peropsin (retinal pigment epithelium-derived rhodopsin homologue, RRH) is unknown. Results By in silico analysis of the GenBank database we have determined that the human RRH comprises 7 exons spanning approximately 16.5 kb and is localised to chromosome 4q25 in the following gene sequence: cen-EGF-RRH-IF-qter – a position that excludes this gene as a candidate for the RP29 autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa locus. A comparison of opsin gene structures reveals that RRH and RGR share two common intron (introns 1 and 4) insertion positions which may reflect a shared ancestral gene. Conclusion The opsins comprise a diverse group of genes which appear to have arisen from three different lineages. These lineages comprise the "classical opsin superfamily" which includes the rod and cone opsins, pinopsin, VA-opsin, parapinopsin and encephalopsin; the RRH and RGR group; and the melanopsin line. A common lineage for RRH and RGR, together with their sites of expression in the RPE, indicates that peropsin may act as a retinal isomerase.