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.
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.
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.