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Intervention by Denise Caruso Read Intervention by Denise Caruso, Executive Director of the Hybrid Vigor Silver Award Winner, 2007 Independent Publisher Book Awards; Best Business Books 2007, Strategy+Business Magazine

GECKOS SEE COLOR AT NIGHT

by Denise Caruso ~ February 5, 2007.
Permalink | Filed under: Hybrid Vigor, Human Perception.

Here’s the top of a recent New Scientist article on geckos’ night vision (subscription required):

Geckos: Under the colour of darkness
06 January 2007
Sally Palmer
Magazine issue 2585
When our world turns dull and grey, a gecko’s life is a riot of colour, as New Scientist discovers

THERE’S a German expression which translates as “all cats are grey at night”. It’s certainly true for humans. As night falls, the colour-detecting cone cells in our eyes switch off, the rod cells take over and the world turns to fuzzy black and white - until we go indoors and switch on the lights.

It has always been assumed that nocturnal animals also see the world in black and white, albeit far more clearly than us. So when animal biologist and vision specialist Almut Kelber began studying nocturnal vision in geckos and moths, she was intrigued to discover that some species were actually seeing in colour.

Kelber and her colleagues at the vision research group at Lund University in Sweden now believe that nocturnal colour vision may be far more common than anyone imagined and could be found in toads, frogs, bees, wasps, fireflies and creatures of the deepest oceans. …

I find vision fascinating; it was the topic that inspired me to start Hybrid Vigor. Richard Solomon, then a senior scientist at MIT, had helped Polaroid build the first high-definition TV camera (this was back in the early ’90s, as I recall), and wondered why this remarkable camera still couldn’t see the way the human eye could see. He started doing research and discovered that several disciplines studied human vision, but for various reasons weren’t and/or wouldn’t share information.

He wasn’t so constrained, and ended up using what he knew to start developing a new machine vision system based on what he’d learned. I conned him into writing a Hybrid Vigor Journal on the subject, “As If You Were There: Matching Machine Vision to Human Vision.” (This is the link to the PDF.) It’s a terrific paper.

2 Responses to GECKOS SEE COLOR AT NIGHT

  1. Michael Ferrari

    This is a great paper - I have some of these same thoughts myself. As a researcher in remote sensing and computer vision, my lab oftentimes is trying to come up with new algorithms for how to represent visual objects, as the information that is retrieved in different wavelengths is usually not visible to humans. Snakes are fantastic organisms to model new visual systems after, owing a great deal to the selective pressures that have allowed them to develop such acute visual perception following the loss of their limbs. Another example of tecnology getting inspiration from nature.

  2. “Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering and Life on a Biotech Planet”

    […] While poking around on the organization’s site, I came across Caruso’s blog. She writes about many things with wit and humor, and posts like this make me appreciate her choices the most. Did you know that geckos see in color at night? It has always been assumed (that’s where we get in trouble…) that nocturnal animals see in black-and-white, albeit better than we do in the dark. But it turns out that frogs, toads, wasps, bees and even creatures in the deepest oceans may be seeing in color. It is a beautiful world, after all. 2 Comments so far Leave a comment […]

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