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Color Vision in the Animal World

We are familiar with how humans see color, we see it everyday, but how do some of our animal friends perceive the same colors we do?


We have heard for years that dogs and cats can only see in grayscale. Recent research has suggested that this is not the case. Scientists in Russia have dispelled the notion that dogs and cats recognize different objects based on brightness, a result of only seeing in grayscale. Using different pieces of colored paper the scientists demonstrated that dogs and cats would be able to differentiate between different colors. The conclusion of the research is that our household pets see color in a way that is more similar to a color blind human than anything else. Dogs and cats only have two cones compared to our three. This suggests that they can see a range of colors but struggle to identify reds and oranges.

On the opposite side of color myths it has been recently discovered that Bulls are in fact color blind. For centuries it has been believed that the color red would agitate a bull. This belief has lead to the Matador’s ubiquitous red cape. It turns out that all the Bull sees is a human waving a gray sheet and is likely more agitated by the unusual movement than the color.   

You may be surprised to learn that the award for best color vision in the animal kingdom goes to the humble Mantis Shrimp. Several years ago scientists found that the little crustacean had a whooping 12 color receptors! This lead to speculation that the shrimp could actually see more colors than humans. Unfortunately this initial research has been debunked although it is widely thought that the shrimp can still see color in a range that rivals human vision.


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