Last updated on October 26, 2019
You’ve probably heard the famous “Dogs only see in black and white,” which is of course just a myth. But it is true that animals perceive colors in a different way from ours.
Now that you know that your good old Rufus doesn’t see you as in a silent Charlie Chaplin movie, you wonder how does he see you? The answer is rather simple, once you know how color vision works. Read on to know the mystery that torments your mind every time you lay eyes on your pet.
How does animal vision differ from our vision?
Before we understand what a mouse sees or doesn’t see, we need to understand how we see the world and how our eyes perceive all the colors, some of which we don’t even know.
The human eye has thousands of light-sensitive cells called rods and cones. These photoreceptors convert light waves into information that our brain can translate as color, shape or movement.
An animal’s eye has the same photoreceptors as us, scientists have been able to determine if they have them and what waves of light and color make them react.
The rods allow us to perceive light and movement, and thanks to the cones that we can see the colors.
Humans have three types of cones:
Green, Blue, and Red. It is the complement of these colors that makes the palette that we perceive varies.
The difference is in the type of cones that the being possesses, some animals have only two types of cones, such as dogs and cats. Others have more than us.
Which animal has poor color vision and how does it see then?
The majority of animals have fewer cones than we do. While humans have three, some have only two, and often red is missing. A lack in the cones gives a lower-than-normal color supplement.
This does not make them blind to colors, and their world is not monochrome, it’s just that they perceive less in-depth shades of certain colors.
DOGS AND CATS: These two mammals have only two photoreceptors, blue and green, which allows them to perceive them with a little yellow.
This lack does not handicap them since, in addition to having a wider field of view than humans, cats have a more pointed perception at night.
Other mammals such as squirrels and rabbits have only two. Rabbits see the world in a shade of saturated blue and green while squirrels have yellow in their palette.
SNAKES: They may perceive very few colors, and since most species spend their time under the ground, their vision is influenced by the low altitude of their bodies. But despite their sober and Saturnian world, they have the ability to see infrared and can perceive the heat emanating from their prey.
Crustaceans such as crayfish can see red and blue. Cephalopods, although known to be very intelligent species, are very limited in their palette, they see the world only in shades of blue.
Which animal has a good vision of colors?
Not all animals have a limited view of the colors. There are even some that are completely beyond us in this area, the simple idea that they can have colors that they see and that we do not see is just unthinkable.
Scientists know how to determine if an animal can see better than you, but what does the color that this beast sees, in addition, look like? This is still impossible to determine. And you, then, have you ever tried to imagine a color that does not exist?
Chimpanzees and gorillas, and other African monkeys have the same number of cones as us, so three, then they share with us the same vision of the world.
BIRDS: In addition to being able to see the world at high altitudes at the best angles that can exist, and already having a much wider field of view than ours, the majority of these species have four, five, up to seven photoreceptors. But in addition to admiring colors you can’t see, they can even perceive the ultraviolet rays!
BUTTERFLIES AND BEES: Insects that can also perceive more than you see: ultraviolet. They have about five cones.
Are there any animals that can see colors in the dark?
The world is beautiful, the light surrounds you, the colors bathe you pleasantly but as soon as the darkness sets in, you see nothing. No light, no colors.
The cones stop working in the dark and the rods are the only ones doing their job to filter out how little light is around you, but you only see it in a shade of gray. Some animals need to see in the dark, so there are some species that can perceive colors even at night.