Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I can see....the color of cheese rinds!

You may not know this, but mice are color-blind: they cannot see the red side of the spectrum, so things that are red are not seen as red (from what I have heard, they see shades of gray). In this article, scientists were able to change one gene present in humans and not it mice that enhances their ability to see the red side of the spectrum. From an evolutionary point of view, this is really an interesting point as it seems to suggest human vision of the color spectrum was a rather trivial mutation of this one gene.

A good quote:
Most mammals, including mice, are dichromats, possessing only S and M cone pigments. As a consequence, they can distinguish only a fraction of the wavelengths that can be distinguished by humans. John Mollon at the University of Cambridge has suggested that the evolution of trichromacy could have permitted primates to discriminate between unripe fruit, which is typically green, and ripe red- and orange-colored fruits. Reciprocally, the colors of ripened fruits may have coevolved with primate trichromacy, since animals that could recognize and eat the ripe fruit would have assisted plants by spreading their seeds.

Check out the link to the sidebar for a good illustration of red-green color blindness.

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