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Experience Colors As Animals See Them In Astonishing New Videos

This new camera system predicted perceived colors with an accuracy of over 92 percent.

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Eleanor Higgs

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Eleanor Higgs

Digital Content Creator

Eleanor is a content creator and social media assistant with an undergraduate degree in zoology and a master’s degree in wildlife documentary production.

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Edited by Laura Simmons
Laura Simmons - Editor and Staff Writer

Laura Simmons

Editor and Staff Writer

Laura is an editor and staff writer at IFLScience. She obtained her Master's in Experimental Neuroscience from Imperial College London.

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Yellow and black striped butterfly on red plants. The colors are false to reflect the vision of a bee.

A zebra swallowtail butterfly foraging on flowers, as seen through honeybee false color vision.

Image credit: Vasas et al, PLOS Biology 2024 (CC0 1.0)

Animal vision comes in quite literally all the colors, from those that can see the ultraviolet spectrum to those that see the world in grayscale. As each animal perceives color differently, it is of immense value to ecologists and zoologists to be able to see the world in the same way as their study subject. Now, new camera and software technology is helping them do just that, and the results are surprisingly beautiful.

The new camera system allows the team to produce videos that accurately replicate what the animals would see in their habitats. Previous attempts to recreate the colors seen by animals with a method called spectrophotometry have been time-consuming and unable to capture moving images. This new camera system is able to simultaneously record video in four color spectrums: UV, red, blue, and green. 

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After the recording the data is then processed into something the team are calling “perceptual units”, creating an accurate video of how the colors are perceived by the animals. To do this they use their knowledge of the photoreceptors present in the eyes of each different animal. 

“We’ve long been fascinated by how animals see the world. Modern techniques in sensory ecology allow us to infer how static scenes might appear to an animal; however, animals often make crucial decisions on moving targets (e.g., detecting food items, evaluating a potential mate’s display, etc.). Here, we introduce hardware and software tools for ecologists and filmmakers that can capture and display animal-perceived colors in motion,” said senior author Daniel Hanley in a statement.

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When compared to the old spectrophotometry method, this new camera system was found to predict perceived colors with an accuracy of over 92 percent. The team do acknowledge some limitations of their system, such as the need to use manual focusing and the challenges of keeping a fast-moving object in focus. The software is available open source to allow others to build on and use this technology for their own research. 

The study is published in PLOS Biology


ARTICLE POSTED IN

natureNaturenatureanimals
  • tag
  • insects,

  • animals,

  • vision,

  • perception,

  • colors,

  • color vision

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