If you showed a movie to Nemo the clownfish, he wouldn’t be very impressed. The problem is, clownfish see colours differently to us humans. But worry not! Scientists from the University of Queensland have a TV for clownfish eyes.
This new screen doesn’t look like much to human eyes, but there’s plenty going on that we can’t see. “Human TVs generally use three colours – red, green and blue – to create images,” says Dr Samuel Powell. “But our newly-developed displays have five, including violet and ultraviolet [UV].”
But you won’t be sharing a movie with your pet fish any time soon. “You’d have to wear sunglasses and sunscreen while watching it,” says Samuel. “And the resolution is quite low – 8 by 12 pixels in a 4 by 5 centimetre area.” By comparison, a smartphone can be around 1000 by 2500 pixels.
This television isn’t to catch up on the latest episodes – it’s to learn more about how animals see and think. They’ve already trained clownfish to peck at ultraviolet dots to get food treats. That’s something humans can’t do, because we can’t see the dots!
The new screen is not just for clownfish though. Other fish, and even some other animals, could use a UV-TV too. “Bees use UV patterns on flowers to locate nectar, for example, and fish can recognise individuals using UV facial patterns,” says Dr Karen Cheney.
This means the UV-TV opens up new experiments, helping us understand the world through the eyes of animals. As Karen says, “Who knows what other discoveries we can now make about how certain animals behave, interact and think?”
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