go to content

12 Things That Will Change The Way You See Color

Pimples look like "a multicolored Vesuvius" if you have extraordinary vision.

Posted on

A long time ago, on the internet, there was an argument about a certain, ahem, clothing garment's true color.

Fox / Via giphy.com

Here's the thing: There is no such thing as a true color because living creatures all see colors differently.

1. Most humans can see everything in the visible spectrum aka all the colors of the rainbow.

Challenger23 / Via challenger23.com

That's because most of us are trichromatic, according to University of Cambridge research fellow Laura Kelly. This means we have three types of cone cells in our eyes that allow us to see green, blue, and red.

2. But some people are colorblind, and this is how some of them see the world:

Bryan William Jones / Via prometheus.med.utah.edu

Around 8% of men are colorblind (this number is less than 1% for women), according to retinal neuroscientist Brian William Jones. People with protanopia, a common form of colorblindness, are missing a red cone, so that's why everything in the right picture looks olive.

Bryan William Jones / Via prometheus.med.utah.edu

Around 8% of men are colorblind (this number is less than 1% for women), according to retinal neuroscientist Brian William Jones. People with protanopia, a common form of colorblindness, are missing a red cone, so that's why everything in the right picture looks olive.

← Slide →
Bryan William Jones / Via prometheus.med.utah.edu

Around 8% of men are colorblind (this number is less than 1% for women), according to retinal neuroscientist Brian William Jones. People with protanopia, a common form of colorblindness, are missing a red cone, so that's why everything in the right picture looks olive.

3. Dogs can actually see color. The left image represents a human's vision while the right image is a dog's vision.

Jay Neitz/Medical College of Wisconson / Via neitzvision.com

Dogs don't see in black and white. (That was a vicious rumor likely spread by jealous cats). That's because dogs are dichromatic, like most mammals (besides humans and other primates).

Dogs basically see color in a similar way to people who are colorblind because they're missing red cone receptors, according to ophthalmologist Jay Neitz.

Jay Neitz/Medical College of Wisconson / Via neitzvision.com

Dogs don't see in black and white. (That was a vicious rumor likely spread by jealous cats). That's because dogs are dichromatic, like most mammals (besides humans and other primates).

Dogs basically see color in a similar way to people who are colorblind because they're missing red cone receptors, according to ophthalmologist Jay Neitz.

← Slide →
Jay Neitz/Medical College of Wisconson / Via neitzvision.com

Dogs don't see in black and white. (That was a vicious rumor likely spread by jealous cats). That's because dogs are dichromatic, like most mammals (besides humans and other primates).

Dogs basically see color in a similar way to people who are colorblind because they're missing red cone receptors, according to ophthalmologist Jay Neitz.

4. The fuzzier, less vibrant picture is what your cat sees:

Nickolay Lamm / Via nickolaylamm.com

Some researchers think that cats may actually be trichromatic, but that felines still see the world in a similar way to dogs, according to research done by Nickolay Lamm and the Ophthalmology group at Penn Vet.

Nickolay Lamm / Via nickolaylamm.com

Some researchers think that cats may actually be trichromatic, but that felines still see the world in a similar way to dogs, according to research done by Nickolay Lamm and the Ophthalmology group at Penn Vet.

← Slide →
Nickolay Lamm / Via nickolaylamm.com

Some researchers think that cats may actually be trichromatic, but that felines still see the world in a similar way to dogs, according to research done by Nickolay Lamm and the Ophthalmology group at Penn Vet.

5. Cats have better night vision than humans, even though they can't see reds.

Nickolay Lamm / Via nickolaylamm.com

This is why most mammals are dichromatic, since mammals were nocturnal during the early stages of our evolution.

6. Bulls are also dichromatic, which means they can't see red either.

gifbin / Via giphy.com

It's a myth that red makes them angry, according to scientist Christopher Baird, Ph.D. Perhaps they're agitated because some rando dressed like Prince is waving a flag in their face in front of thousands of people.

7. Humans evolved the ability to see red to possibly help with foraging.

Disney / Via giphy.com

The color red is really important because it tells us when a fruit is ripe. So early primates were were able to search for brightly colored fruit among green forests, according to a study in PLOS One.

8. Bees can see UV light.

BBC / Via youtube.com

This helps them recognize different species of flowers. But like bulls, bees can't really see the color red, according to biologist Friedrich G. Barth, Ph.D. (This seems to be a common theme in the animal kingdom).

9. Birds, reptiles, and fish can also see UV light.

Warner Bros / Via giphy.com

That's because those animals are tetrachromatic, meaning they have a fourth cone receptor, according to a study published in the Oxford Journal. We can't even imagine what the world looks like to them, because we're basically colorblind in comparison.

This can have tons of advantages, like seeing piss (hear me out on this one) or mating. Hawks, for example, can follow urine trails to find rodents, cites the study. And female zebra finches choose mates based on feather colors reflected in UV light.

10. Dinosaurs were able to see UV light too.

Discovery / Via youtube.com

This is probably why dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus Rex evolved feathers, even though they couldn't fly, according to a University of Bonn study. Like birds, the dinosaurs were able to communicate and select a mate by signaling colors and patterns in their plumage. Mammalian fur, in comparison, is boringly drab.

11. But it's the mantis shrimp that sees color in a completely different way than any other living creature in the world.

Smithsonian / Via youtube.com

That's because these little guys have 12 different cones in their eyes, according to the Scientific American. In theory, the crustaceans should be able to see more colors than well, anything, but scientists say mantis shrimp are pretty bad at deciphering different hues. Basically, we don't really know how they see or process color.

And while the crustaceans might look like cute, friendly rainbows, they're actually deadly predators that have aggressively cracked aquarium glass with their claws.

12. And there's even one documented case of a human being who can allegedly see 100 million colors.

Universal / Via giphy.com

Concetta Antico is a visual artist (obviously) who might be tetrachromatic (like birds). She tested positive for the gene, although there's still a possibility that she has a heightened form of trichromacy, ophthalmologist Jay Neitz told BuzzFeed over email.

Antico told New York magazine that she notices colors within colors. She sees emeralds, blues, and violets in the color black. Snow is a bunch of pastels. Antico can even tell when someone is sick, because she sees their skin turn gray, yellow, and green. There are some drawbacks, however: Pimples make her really self-conscious, because they look like a multicolored Vesuvius on her face.

Science Writer

Contact Natasha Umer at natasha.umer@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.