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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2010

The presence of UV wavelengths improves the temporal resolution of the avian visual system

Rubene, Diana; Håstad, Olle; Tauson, Ragnar; Wall, Helena; Ödeen, Anders

Abstract

The ability to perceive rapid movement is an essential adaptation in birds, which are involved in rapid flight, pursuing prey and escaping predators. Nevertheless, the temporal resolution of the avian visual systems has been less well explored than spectral sensitivity. There are indications that birds are superior to humans in their ability to detect movement, as suggested by higher critical flicker frequencies (CFFs). It has also been implied, but not properly tested, that properties of CFF, as a function of light intensity, are affected by the spectral composition of light. This study measured CFF in the chicken, Gallus gallus L., using four different light stimuli - white, full-spectrum (white with addition of UV), yellow (590 nm) and UV (400 nm) - and four light intensity levels, adjusted to relative cone sensitivity. The results showed significantly higher CFF values for full-spectrum compared with white light, as well as a steeper rate of increase with intensity. The presence of UV wavelengths, previously demonstrated to affect mate choice and foraging, appears to be important also for detection of rapid movement. The yellow and UV light stimuli yielded rather similar CFFs, indicating no special role for the double cone in flicker detection.

Keywords

vision; critical flicker frequency; chicken Gallus gallus

Published in

Journal of Experimental Biology
2010, Volume: 213, number: 19, pages: 3357-3363
Publisher: COMPANY OF BIOLOGISTS LTD