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Vision in the Ultraviolet


Public, Staff, Students, Alumni

Speaker: Ronald Douglas

Location: C244 Tait Building

It has been known for almost 100 years that many invertebrates are sensitive to wavelengths below 400nm. More recently, it has become apparent that similar short-wave sensitivity is widespread among many vertebrates such as fish and birds. Although UV sensitivity is known to occur in some mammals such as rodents and bats, it is generally thought to be rare in this class of vertebrate.

Classically UV sensitivity is assumed to require both UV transparent ocular media and a visual pigment maximally sensitive below 400nm. However, we have recently shown using ERGs, that reindeer respond to such short wavelengths despite not having a visual pigment with λmax in the UV. Since their lenses transmit significant amounts of UV, enough is absorbed by the short-wave limb(s) of visual pigments absorbing maximally above 400nm to enable its perception.

Thus, any animal with a UV transparent lens will perceive UV even in the absence of a specific UV-absorbing visual pigment. We have therefore begun a survey of the spectral transmission of the lenses of a variety of mammals. To date we have examined 28 species belonging to 19 families in 9 orders and many potentially have the ability to perceive UV.

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When & where

3.00pm - 4.00pmFriday 27th April 2012

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