A new camera system technology is set to transform how ecologists and filmmakers understand and visualize the color perception of different animals in their natural habitats.
How animals perceive color
Traditionally, the unique visual worlds of different species were largely a mystery to humans. Many animals, such as bees and some bird, Perceives colors beyond human ability, such as ultraviolet light.
This difference arises from different photoreceptors in their eyes. Understanding this color perception is crucial for animal communication and navigational intuition.
Although false-color imaging offered a glimpse of this world, it was hampered by limitations such as time-intensive processes, specific lighting requirements, and the inability to capture movement.
Addressing this challenge, the research team developed a sophisticated camera and software system capable of recording and processing video under natural light conditions.
Cameras see colors like animals
Seen in this picture, the system records in four color channels: blue, green, red and UV. It then converts this data into “perceptual units”—essentially translating it into a format that replicates the animal's vision based on known photoreceptor data.
Impressively, compared to traditional spectrophotometry methods, this new system boasts 92% accuracy in predicting the colors perceived by animals.
This invention opened unprecedented avenues for scientific research. It equips scientists with a tool to explore the dynamic, colorful world that appears different species.
Additionally, filmmakers can now create more accurate and compelling representations of animal perspectives in their works.
The system's practicality is further enhanced by its construction from readily available commercial cameras encased in modular, 3D-printed housings.
Moreover, the accompanying software is open source, which invites further development and adaptation within the research community.
For example, in this picture, the camera captures a mockingbird in the green forest, but this beautiful nature scene is shown It must be seen through avian eyes.
Bridging the gap between humans and animals
Veteran writer Daniel Hanley eloquently sums up the significance of the project.
“We have long been fascinated by how animals see the world. Modern techniques of sensory ecology have allowed us to imagine static scenes from the animal's point of view. However, understanding their perception of moving objects — important for activities such as finding food or selecting mates — remains elusive,” Hanley explained.
“Our development introduces tools for ecologists and filmmakers to accurately capture and display animal-perceived colors in motion, marking a significant advance in our research into animal behavior and perception,” he concluded.
In short, this Advanced camera system This not only signals a technological advance, but marks a new chapter in our understanding of the animal world, bringing us closer to experiencing the world through their eyes.
New camera shows how animals see color
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) in Avian Vision
In this video, 2 northern mockingbirds are seen interacting in a tree, avian false color. Specifically, in the video, blue, green, and red quantum traps are shown as blue, green, and red, respectively, and UV quantum traps are overlaid as magenta.
Although the 80mm lens is not designed for imaging distant subjects, the system captures avian-view imagery well, and their feather patches appear “avian white” (reflecting UV through the visible part of the spectrum).
It also illustrates that the sky is predominantly UV colored (ie appears magenta), suffering from Rayleigh scattering due to shorter wavelengths. Thus, although the sky appears blue to our eyes, it will appear UV-blue to many other creatures.
Iridescent peacock feathers with 4 different animal eyes.
Camera systems can measure angle-dependent structural colors such as iridescence. This is illustrated here by a video of a highly iridescent peacock (Pavo Christatus) feathers.
The colors in this video (A) represent peacocks Pavo Christatus False color, where blue, green, and red quantum traps are depicted as blue, green, and red, respectively, and UV is overlaid as magenta.
Interestingly, iridescence is more noticeable in peacocks than in (B) humans (standard color), (C) bees, or (D) dogs.
In a caterpillar anti-predator display Apis vision
This video shows a black swallowtail Papilio polyxine The caterpillar is displaying its asymmetry. Scientists filmed this video of the bee in false color as UV, blue and green quantum traps are shown as blue, green and red respectively.
Both the (human) yellow osmetria and the yellow spots along the caterpillar's back reflect strongly UV and appear magenta when converted to the bee's false color (illustrated as blue and red, respectively, as strong responses in the bee's UV-sensitive and green-sensitive photoreceptors).
Many predators of caterpillars perceive UV, and accordingly, this color can be an effective aposematic signal.
More about animals, cameras and color vision
As discussed above, the way animals perceive color is a fascinating journey into the world beyond human vision. Unlike humans, many animals see colors in a spectrum that we can barely imagine.
Humans generally perceive three primary colors: red, green, and blue. But this is only a fraction of the color spectrum of the animal world.
For example, bees and birds can see ultraviolet light, which is invisible to us. This ability plays an important role in their survival, helping them find food and navigate their environment.
beyond human comprehension
Take the mantis shrimp, an ocean dweller with one of the most complex visual systems known.
It can perceive polarized light and has twelve to sixteen types of photoreceptor cells for color (humans have three).
This extraordinary vision helps them identify prey, predators and mates in the complex underwater world.
Color vision in animals is not just about seeing a range of colors; It's about survival. For example, some snakes use infrared vision to hunt warm-blooded prey in the dark.
Reindeer, on the other hand, use ultraviolet vision to spot predators in snowy, reflective landscapes, a skill crucial to their survival in harsh climates.
People gain insight
Evolution plays an important role in this diversity of color vision. Animals have developed their unique color vision based on their environmental needs and survival challenges.
This evolutionary process has resulted in a rich tapestry of visual abilities across the animal kingdom.
Today, with the advancement of technology, humans are beginning to understand and even imagine how animals see the world.
This understanding not only deepens our understanding of the complexity of nature but also opens up new avenues in ecology, behavior studies and even technology design inspired by nature's ingenuity.
In short, animal color vision is vibrant and complex, providing a kaleidoscope of perspectives beyond human capacity.
As we continue to explore and understand these perspectives, we gain a deeper understanding of the natural world and the various creatures that inhabit it.
The full study was published in the journal PLoS Biology.
For videos demonstrating how the camera works in nature, Click here…
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