How Birds Unlock Their Super-sense, Ultraviolet Vision

The ability of finches, sparrows, and many other birds to see a visual world hidden to us is explained in a study published in the journalĀ eLife.

Birds can be divided into those that can see ultraviolet (UV) light and those that cannot. Those that can live in a sensory world apart, able to transmit and receive signals between each other in a way that is invisible to many other species. How they unlock this extra dimension to their sight is revealed in new findings from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The study reveals two essential adaptions that enable birds to expand their vision into the UV range: chemical changes in light-filtering pigments called carotenoids and the tuning of light-sensitive proteins called opsins.

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