How does an animal see colours? Inspired by An Immense World

I love the new book by Ed Young. A mind-blowing journey into how other animals experience our world. This book pushes you to the limit to understand our world. It challenges you to see the world through the eyes of other animals. Changing your perspective when it comes to other people’s views is not easy, but it can enhance your understanding of their position and ideas. But when it comes to stepping into the other Umwelts your mind is spinning. The Baltic-German zoologist Jakob von Uexküll referred to our Umwelt to describe the idea that we humans, like all creatures, are trapped in sensory bubbles unique to each individual. To step into the world as perceived by a mallard, mantis shrimp, or elephant, we do not know where to start.

To disregard other people’s and creatures’ perspectives can be damaging and it is also a missed opportunity. Missed opportunities to solve problems and even design inventions.

So far I have mostly dived into the world of vision. Animals see colours in so many different ways. Some see fewer colours than us, some see colours that we cannot see – infrared and ultraviolet. The mantis shrimps see a special twisted light called circularly polarised light. They use it to send special messages to each other. Despite that they have 16 different types of cones in their eyes, they are bad at telling the difference between different shades.  Most humans only have 3 cone cells in their eyes.

In many parts of the world, kids are getting ready to start a new term. I made a resource inspired by colourful animals. You find it here.

Featured photo: By Jenny – originally posted to Flickr as mantis shrimp, CC BY 2.0,

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