We knew the mantis shrimp had super-stellar vision being able to perceive 100,000 colors, but it looks like they aren’t the only ocean denizens that can see more colors than humans. Reef fish can apparently also see more colors than humans, this according to new research from The University of Queensland.
A team of researchers from the school’s Sensory Neurobiology Lab at the Queensland Brain Institute ran some experiments with trigger fish to get a better understanding of how they saw the world. According to Professor Justin Marshall, the team ran studies in the past examining how goldfish saw colors, but this was the first time someone explored how reef fish can discriminate between colors.
“Coral reefs are the most colorful environments in the world, and it’s now become clear that reef fish see colors we can’t,” Professor Marshall said. “Some reef fish, such as the anemonefish ‘Nemo’ and other damselfish can see the UV wavelengths we protect ourselves from. Triggerfish, on the other hand, see more or less the same color range we do but their color discriminations are different.”
In a story on Phys.org, Professor Marshall said Dr. Connor Champ led a series of detailed behavioral tests, where trigger fish were rewarded for discriminating against progressively similar colors. What they found was the trigger fish actually see color in some color regions in more detail than us humans.
“Thinking about it, this is no big surprise. Their color tasks are blue-biased, as they live in a blue ocean,” he added. “Ironically, as the colors of the reef change and disappear because of climate change, we are just beginning to understand how reef inhabitants see and experience their vibrant world.”
Comparative color vision research at QBI is helping in cancer detection, satellite design and data storage on computers. The research, published in Royal Society Open Science, was funded by the Australian Research Council.
One of our favorite quotes from the story was his response to why they are studying fish.
“Many people ask me ‘Why study fish?’ and my first answer is: “Because I love them,” Professor Marshall said.
Good answer. So do we.