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Plumage Colours and the Eye of the Beholder: The Ecology of Colour and its Perception in Birds
Uppsala University, Teknisk-naturvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Evolutionary Biology, Animal Ecology.
2003 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Virtually all diurnal birds have tetrachomatic vision based on four different colour receptors. As a result, birds are potentially able to perceive their environment in twice as many colours as humans and four times as many colours compared to most other mammals, which are dichromatic. In addition to the spectrum visible to humans, birds are able to detect ultraviolet (UV) light. Signals with a UV component have been shown to be important to birds both in foraging and colour signalling. Because of the superior colour discrimination of the avian eye, UV sensitivity, but especially owing to its tetrachromacy, we cannot know what birds look like to those that matter, i.e. other birds.

In my thesis I describe a new molecular method with which it is possible to identify the vision system of birds only using a small amount of DNA, without the need to keep or sacrifice the animal. It thereby facilitates large screenings, including rare and endangered species. The method has been used to increase the number of species with identified vision system type from 19 to 66. I show that raptors and songbirds have different vision systems, giving songbirds the possibility of a secret channel for colour signalling, and that male songbirds in coniferous forest take advantage of this to be significantly more cryptic to raptors than to females songbirds. I show that gulls have gained a vision system enabling them to detect the UV signals of fish when the fish swim close to the surface.

Even though we tend to be rather self-satisfied with the quality of our colour vision, we are colour-blind when compared to birds. My work shows that human colour vision is inadequate for judging animal coloration, and that there is much more going on in bird colour signalling than meets our eye.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2003. , p. 34
Series
Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1104-232X ; 915
Keywords [en]
Ecology, ultraviolet, colour vision, opsin
Keywords [sv]
Ekologi
National Category
Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-3864ISBN: 91-554-5824-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-3864DiVA, id: diva2:163795
Public defence
2003-12-19, Friessalen, EBC, Norbyvägen 14, Uppsala, 10:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2003-11-27 Created: 2003-11-27Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Sexual selection, colour perception and coloured leg rings in grouse (Tetraonidae)
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sexual selection, colour perception and coloured leg rings in grouse (Tetraonidae)
Show others...
2002 In: Avian Science, ISSN 1424-8743, Vol. 2, no 3, p. 145–152-Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-91158 (URN)
Available from: 2003-11-27 Created: 2003-11-27Bibliographically approved
2. Complex Distribution of Avian Color Vision Systems Revealed by Sequencing the SWS1 Opsin from Total DNA
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Complex Distribution of Avian Color Vision Systems Revealed by Sequencing the SWS1 Opsin from Total DNA
2003 In: Molecular Biology and Evolution, ISSN 0737-4038, Vol. 20, no 6, p. 855–861-Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-91159 (URN)
Available from: 2003-11-27 Created: 2003-11-27Bibliographically approved
3. Have colour vision and sexual signals co-evolved in birds?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Have colour vision and sexual signals co-evolved in birds?
Manuscript (Other academic)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-91160 (URN)
Available from: 2003-11-27 Created: 2003-11-27 Last updated: 2010-01-13Bibliographically approved
4. Crypsis is in the eye of the beholder: Differences in perception of songbird plumage colours between predator and prey
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Crypsis is in the eye of the beholder: Differences in perception of songbird plumage colours between predator and prey
Manuscript (Other academic)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-91161 (URN)
Available from: 2003-11-27 Created: 2003-11-27 Last updated: 2010-01-13Bibliographically approved
5. UV biased colour vision in piscivorous dip and plunge diving birds
Open this publication in new window or tab >>UV biased colour vision in piscivorous dip and plunge diving birds
Manuscript (Other academic)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-91162 (URN)
Available from: 2003-11-27 Created: 2003-11-27 Last updated: 2010-01-13Bibliographically approved

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