How Do We Know How Animals See Things?

27 February 2018, 16:34 | Updated: 27 February 2018, 16:43

Horse eye
Horse. Picture: N/A

The Mystery Hour

Name: Richard, Walton

Question: How do we know, as humans, how animals see things?


Name: Hal, Brighton

Qualification: Professor of Public Understanding of Science

Answer: There are two answers.

There are two different cells in the retina – rods and cones. Rods deal with light and dark while cones deal with colour. We can dissect eyes, looking at the rods and cones to determine if an animal sees colour or not.

Incidentally, our perception of twinkling stars is caused when a single point of light touches our retinal rods. As air moves around in the atmosphere, light bounces between rods, creating a sparkle effect.

In terms of animal vision, we can also use brain scanning technology to determine whether animals respond to colours. It is possible to measure whether certain parts of the brain become stimulated by colour changes. This gives us an insight into the eyesight of different species.