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Proc Biol Sci. 2004 Dec 7;271 Suppl 6:S485-7.

Nocturnal colour vision in geckos.

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University of Lund, Department of Cell and Organism Biology, Vision Group, Helgonav├Ągen 3, S-223 62 Lund, Sweden.


Nocturnal animals are said to sacrifice colour vision in favour of increased absolute sensitivity. This is true for most vertebrates that possess a dual retina with a single type of rod for colour-blind night vision and multiple types of cone for diurnal colour vision. However, among the nocturnal vertebrates, geckos are unusual because they have no rods but three cone types. Here, we show that geckos use their cones for colour vision in dim light. Two specimens of the nocturnal helmet gecko Tarentola (formerly Geckonia) chazaliae were able to discriminate blue from grey patterns by colour alone. Experiments were performed at 0.002 cd m(-2), a light intensity similar to dim moonlight. We conclude that nocturnal geckos can use cone-based colour vision at very dim light levels when humans rely on colour-blind rod vision.

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