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What a dress could tell us about what fish see


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If you haven't seen this viral dress and how it can turn your household upside down as one family member sees blue/black and another sees white and gold we may learn the lesson that we don't really know how fish see color. Color may be relative to species and even individuals within a species.


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The truth of the matter is that there is actually no such thing as "color". The wavelengths out there in the electromagnetic spectrum are "interpreted" by the receptors of various species and transmitted neurally to the brain and the result is "labeled" by humans as a specific color (merely a label to describe the perception). In humans the color receptors are the cones in our retinas and sometimes there are abnormalities which may lead to specific "color blindness", there can also be abnormalities or even unrecognized damage to the neural pathways or even abnormalities or damage to specific parts of the brain itself leading to color discrimination problems, and then there are also problems with the labeling process itself. For instance various cultures may group colors into different groupings and apply different labels to what they experience. Even within a cuture there may be disagreemant about what color something is for example is aquamarine blue or is it green?  There are some animals that are thought not to have color perception as we know it and some have actual absence of color receptors. This is one of the reasons I've been saying all along that color perception in fish results in experiments or anecdotally are highly questionable. They may not be seeing anything like what we are seeing if they are truly seeing color at all. It is also worth noting that humans sample only a very small segment of the electromagnetic spectrum and other animals may be sensitive to other lengths of light that we cannot perceive. It is truly a very complicated relationship and issue.

Edited by Sk8man
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Fish have more cones in their eyes than humans do.  The cones are what allows animals to distinguish color.  Fish can see well into the ultraviolet range and somewhat into the infra-red.  Which is why they can distinguish red well deeper than fishermen give them credit for.  How far down they can see gold is anyone's guess.  I imagine gold just appears as a flash, just as the dress was to some of you guys.  Who was looking at the dress anyways?




Tom B.


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