Seeing the coloured light: bee brains open way for better cameras—4 July 2017

We might take it for granted, but correctly identifying colour in complex outdoor environments is a difficult task for the brain because the colour of light is continuously changing.

A multidisciplinary team of researchers across several universities in Melbourne have looked to see how honeybees solve this problem, and in doing so have discovered a totally new mechanism for processing colour information.

Bees have three extra eyes on the top of their head that look directly at the sky, and the research team discovered that these eyes contain two colour receptors that are perfectly tuned for sensing the colour of ambient light. They have further shown that information from these eyes is fed to the colour processing areas of the bee’s brain, helping it to identify colours accurately in different lighting conditions.

The project was supported by several ARC Discovery Projects grants led by Associate Professor Adrian Dyer at RMIT University, who has been working with Professor Marcello Rosa, a Chief Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrative Brain Function, and ARC Future Fellow Professor Andrew Greentree who is a Chief Investigator at the ARC Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics.

Professor Andrew Greentree from the ARC Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics at RMIT University said: “It is rare that physics, biology, neuro-anatomy and ecology all fit together, but here we have it.”

The results of this research could pave the way for more accurate cameras in phones, drones and robots, and have now been published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).  

 

Media issued by RMIT University.

 

Image: Accurate colour interpretation is essential for bee foraging in complex environments.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

 

Original Published Date: 
Tuesday, July 4, 2017