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Colors Animals See

show/hide words to know

  • Infrared: invisible light rays (for humans) that are beyond the red end of the visible spectrum.... more
  • Ultraviolet: (1) light waves at wavelengths less than those visible to humans. Also called UV light. (2) invisible light rays just below the violet end of the spectrum... more

How do you know if an animal can see color?

This question can be answered pretty easy. If an animal eye has cones they will be able to see some color. What is difficult to know is which colors can an animal see and how strong or weak will the color appear to the animal.

Scientists can study an animal eye and find out if it contains cones and what colors of light the cones can detect. It is also possible to count the number of cones and their location in the retina to understand how strong or weak a color might appear to an animal.

But, what color does the animal see? Vision, like all of our senses is processed in the brain. Without being able to get into the head of animal it is only possible to know what colors can be detected and not how they "look" to the animal.

Animal eyes: jumping spider, rattlesnake, owl, cat

This is also true for humans. Two people may say they see a painted wall as a particular color, but do they see it the same way? The answer is not known at this point.

Do humans have better color vision than animals?

It is true that we see more colors than some animals. However, some animals see colors we cannot. Spiders and many insects can see a type of light called ultraviolet that humans cannot see. Other animals are able to see in the infrared.

The the chart below lists some common animals and the colors they can see.

ANIMALTHE COLORS THEY SEE
SPIDERS (jumping spiders)ULTRAVIOLET AND GREEN
INSECTS (bees)ULTRAVIOLET, BLUE, YELLOW
CRUSTACEANS (crayfish)BLUE AND RED
CEPHALOPODS (octopi and squids)BLUE ONLY
FISHMOST SEE JUST TWO COLORS
AMPHIBIANS (frogs)MOST SEE SOME COLOR
REPTILES (snakes)SOME COLOR AND INFRARED
BIRDSFIVE TO SEVEN COLORS
MAMMALS (cats)TWO COLORS BUT WEAKLY
MAMMALS (dogs)TWO COLORS BUT WEAKLY
MAMMALS (rabbit)BLUE AND GREEN
MAMMALS (squirrel)BLUES AND YELLOWS
MAMMALS (primates-apes and chimps)SAME AS HUMANS
MAMMALS (African monkeys)SAME AS HUMANS
MAMMALS (South American monkeys)CAN'T SEE RED WELL

 

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