We just published a paper on our online games Relative advantages of dichromatic and trichromatic color vision in camouflage breaking which can still be played here.
We wanted to know why many animals are dichromats (having two types of colour receptor cells in their eyes) while others, like humans, are trichromats (with three types of colour cells), and how colour vision affects animals’ ability to detect camouflaged prey.
The prevalence of red-green colour blindness in many animals has led scientists to believe there must be some evolutionary advantage to seeing in just two primary colours as opposed to three. For example, it has been suggested that finding camouflaged prey is easier for dichromats with red-green colour blindness, as colour has been shown to interfere with animals’ ability to detect camouflaged objects.
The games involve finding either nesting nightjars or the eggs of plovers and players can choose to play as a dichromat or a trichromat. The game has been played by over 30,000 people and now the results are in.
We found that trichromats found the nightjars and eggs faster than simulated dichromats. However, the search time of dichromats improved faster than trichromats, so that by the end of the game they performed equally well. In addition, there were large differences in how much the dichromats’ capture times were affected by different camouflage types (such as pattern and brightness) compared to trichromats. These results suggest that although dichromats can only see a limited range of colours, they could be better at differentiating between light and dark and at finding hidden objects.
Test your skills and try find the Fiery-necked nightjar in the photo below.