London: Frogs have the unique ability to see colour even when it is so dark that we are not able to see anything at all, new research has found.
The findings, published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, suggest that the night vision of frogs and toads may be superior to that of all other animals.
“It’s amazing that these animals can actually see colour in extreme darkness, down to the absolute threshold of the visual system. These results were unexpected,” said one of the study authors Almut Kelber, Professor at Lund University in Sweden.
Most vertebrates, including humans, have two types of visual cells located in the retina, namely cones and rods.
The cones enable us to see colour, but they usually require a lot of light and, therefore, stop working when it gets dark, in which case the rods take over so that we can at least find our way home, although in black and white.
In toads and frogs, the rods are a bit special.
It was previously known that toads and frogs are unique in having rods with two different sensitivities.
This has not been found in other vertebrates, and it is also the reason why researchers have long suspected that frogs and toads might be able to see colour also in low-light conditions.
The new study proves this to be true, and the results exceeded all expectations.
The researchers studied to what extent frogs and toads use their colour vision when searching for a mate or hunting for food.
The results showed that the animals stop using their colour information fairly early when it comes to finding someone with whom to mate, whereas they continue to take advantage of their colour vision to select food in such low-light conditions that humans lose their ability to see colour.
“We have previously shown moths and geckos are also able to see colour in inferior light conditions compared to humans. However, frogs apparently have a unique ability to see colour in the dark,” Kelber said.