“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 Justin Marshall of the Queensland Brain Institute said in a news release.
While previous studies have examined the colors goldfish see, this is the first to examine reef fish. Researchers studied triggerfish by subjecting them to a series of behavioral tests where they were rewarded for discriminating against similar colors. They found that the fish were able to see some colors better than humans.
“Some reef fish, such as the anemonefish ‘Nemo’ and other damselfish can see the UV wavelengths we protect ourselves from,” Marshall said. “Triggerfish, on the other hand, see more or less the same colour range we do but their colour discriminations are different. Thinking about it, this is no big surprise. Their colour tasks are blue-biased, as they live in a blue ocean. Ironically, as the colours 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.”
In addition to providing more information about the intricacies of coral reefs, studies like this one can also lend insights to other disciplines. Comparative color vision research can be used for studies ranging from data storage to cancer detection.
To learn more:
- Read the news release: UQ triggers reef fish colour vision study
- Read the full study: Colour thresholds in a coral reef fish
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