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Tag: sight

How a dog sees a rainbow

SONY DSC

Dogs aren’t truly color blind, but they do see a lesser range of hues than humans do.

They may have better hearing than us, and be far superior to us at sniffing things out, but when it comes to seeing rainbows they don’t have as much to get excited about as we do.

Dogs have only two types of cone cells, which are responsible for color vision, enabling them to see blue and yellow — and their various mixes.

Most of us humans have three different types of cone cells, allowing us to see red, green and blue, and all combinations of those colors.

As this graphic from the Washington Post’s Wonkblog shows, dogs miss out on reds and oranges and generally enjoy a less vivid spectrum of colors.

rainbow

But before you start feeling superior, consider that we’re probably not seeing all there is to see in a rainbow, either.

Butterflies may have up to five cone receptors, while the mantis shrimp has 12. They are fluttering around, or swimming around, seeing colors we’ve never seen.

(Imagine what a butterfly shrimp might see, if it weren’t breaded and fried.)

Quick science lesson: Colors are just different wavelengths of visible light, so the color of an object depends on what kinds of light it absorbs and reflects. What bounces back and hits our eyes is processed by our brain. Then and only then can we pronounce that the sky is blue, or that the dress is black and blue, or white and gold.

dressHumans on the Internet (which are slightly different than humans) recently spent weeks debating whether a dress shown in a picture was blue with black fringe, or white with gold fringe.

And everyone of them — unlike shrimp, butterflies and dogs — was absolutely sure that what they saw was right.

While other species may have more finely honed senses of smell, sight and sound, we humans have a much more refined sense of smugness, and we lead all species when it comes to the senses — or are they sins? — of pride, envy and greed.

That’s why,  when it comes to rainbows, many of us are most concerned with the pot of gold (or is it blue?) that’s at the end of it.

I’ve given up on finding that, but I would, just once, like to see a rainbow as a butterfly does.

As for that dress, the fact that its color was more debated by women than men isn’t too surprising.

Not only are women less affected by colorblindness (because the genes encoding red and green receptors are located on the X-chromosome, of which men only have one and women have two), but they also have a higher potential of being “tetrachromats” – people with four types of color receptor cells instead of three.

Though the evidence remains inconclusive, some researchers believe this fourth receptor allows tetrachromats to see a wider range of colors.

I’m not sure if consensus was ever reached in the great dress debate, and I don’t really care.

But if you simply must have a final answer, ask a shrimp.

(Photos: Ace at Salvation Mountain in California, by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; graphic from the Washington Post; photo of dress from ABC News)

Dogtown: A trip to Vegas to get sight restored

A Lab mix whose blindness is believed to have led to aggression toward other dogs, preventing her from being adoptable, heads to Las Vegas on tomorrow night’s episode of Dogtown for surgery that could restore her sight.

Dr. Patti Iampietro, of the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, accompanies Lake, whose blindness was caused by cataracts, to Las Vegas for the surgery, performed by Michael Brinkman, a veterinary opthamologist.

Dogtown airs Friday at 10 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel

Brinkman was also a pioneer in devleoping glasses for dogs.