Are There Colors We Cannot See? - Nature Message (2023)

We know that birds and some animals are capable of distinguishing more colors than us. But what about colors we can’t see? Do animals have unique nonspectral colors that humans can’t perceive? And why is tetrachromacy so common among reptiles and dinosaurs? This question has important implications for our understanding of vision throughout the animal kingdom. Let’s take a look at these fascinating facts.

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Are There Colors We Cannot See? - Nature Message (1)

Animals distinguish more colors than humans

Many animals are better at recognizing and discerning different colors than humans. This ability is based on various factors, including the eye shape, retinal structure, and neuronal mechanisms. For example, apes and Old World monkeys have trichromatic vision while most terrestrial mammals are cone dichromats. In contrast, ungulates and dogs have photopigment-based dichromatic vision. However, a dog’s central area has very few cones, representing only 10% of the total photoreceptors in its retina.

Not only are animals better at recognizing colors than humans, but they can also detect them in low-light conditions. This helps them find food and identify predators. Because color is not inherent to objects, animals can tell the difference between red and purple balls. They can even distinguish between lemons and limes. It is not just our eyes that are color-blind. While color is important in many areas of our lives, it is also extremely useful for survival.

The mantis shrimp, for instance, has more types of photoreceptors than any other animal in the world. However, it isn’t particularly good at discriminating colors, as Hanne Thoen, an animal scientist from the University of Queensland, says that the shrimp’s brain does not participate in color recognition. It instead uses the eyes to scan objects and recognize colors. As a result, they have less difficulty distinguishing colors than humans do.

Impossible colors

There are certain colors that the human eye cannot detect. These colors are known as forbidden colors. In order to perceive them, the brain must use signals from both eyes. This is why red and green are perceived as separate colors, but blue and yellow appear as one. When we look at the color green, our eyes cannot distinguish it from the blue color in our brain. For this reason, we cannot see green or blue colors together. However, we can see green when the color is reflected from a white surface.

The existence of colors we cannot see is not completely understood. Scientists are still working to discover them. For now, we can’t see them, but there are certain ways to train the human eye to perceive them. One such exercise involves placing two yellow and blue objects side by side or on top of each other. Regardless of the method used, this exercise is effective at training the human eye to perceive colors that we cannot see.

This experiment was originally dismissed as an anthropomorphic joke by many vision scientists. But the results of the experiment remained controversial, and other vision scientists could not duplicate the results. To test this theory, Billock and Tsou conducted eye tracking experiments on seven human subjects, playing with their gaze and luminance to create colors we cannot see. In their studies, six out of seven observers were able to distinguish the forbidden colors.

Permitted colors

According to a recent report, the EFSA is currently re-assessing the permitted colors that we can see in food. This re-evaluation is prioritising natural food colours over synthetically produced ones. The report says the process should be completed by 2015.

Colours of a rainbow

There are many colours in a rainbow that we cannot see, but we do know the names of each. These colours are the first three in the rainbow and are connected to nature, regeneration, and wealth. However, they are difficult to identify and recall, so a common mnemonic is VIBGYOR. In Britain, we often call this colour Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain. The blue hue is calming and reminds us of the sky. However, it is also associated with depression.

There are seven colours in a rainbow. These seven colours are made possible by the way sunlight passes through water droplets. When this happens, light from the sun is scattered in many directions, creating the rainbow. Humans can only see the visible colours, so this is a difficult mystery for us to solve. However, it is known that rainbows can be created in other situations, such as mist from a waterfall or the spray from the ocean.

While many people think of the rainbow as a colourful arc, there are actually other colours we cannot see. Scientists are still researching the origin of these colours. However, we have only recently discovered that we cannot perceive pink. If we can’t see this colour, it means it is not a part of the visible spectrum. So, if you’ve ever wondered how the rainbow is made, here is a quick explanation: it’s more complex than it appears.


A recent experiment was conducted in Namibia to study the perception of the color blue by tribe members. The Himba, an African tribe, does not have a word for blue. In fact, they do not even distinguish between the colors green and blue. As a result, Himba tribe members had difficulty determining which square was blue. Interestingly, Himba tribe members were not able to discern between the two colors, so they made mistakes when choosing a square.

Ancient cultures did not have a word for blue. Only the Egyptians were able to produce blue dye and develop the word for the color. In addition, Guy Deutscher, author of Through the Language Glass, grew up not describing the color blue to his daughter. Until that point, he says, we could only talk about sky blue as it is the blue pigment. But today, we have a new name for blue: “yellow.”

The opposite is also true. The red cone cancels out the signals from the green and blue cones, so the blue-yellow is not perceived by the human eye. This mixture of colors is called FORBIDDEN COLORS. Luckily, you can learn how to perceive this color using an eye exercise. And it’s fun! There are a lot of other colors that aren’t visible to humans.

Yellowish green

Contrary to popular belief, yellowish green and reddish green are not the same colors. While both hues are related, they cannot be seen together by the human eye. The color yellow is not the same as red, and the same thing goes for blue. Blue and green are complementary colors. They appear on the same wavelength in the human eye but cannot be seen simultaneously. This is due to the opposing frequency of each of the colors.

In 1983, Hewitt Crane and Thomas Piantanida published a paper in Science which suggested that we can see two colors at once. Volunteers were shown stripes of red and green, and they reported seeing yellowish green and reddish green. The researchers used an eye tracker to hold the images in place relative to the volunteer’s eyes. The volunteers’ retinas were stimulated by the same colors while they looked at the pictures.

In the 1990s, several scientists conducted experiments to determine whether or not these colors are visible. In a 1981 experiment, researchers from the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio reported that subjects could see the color green when the object was in the same light as the object. The results of the experiment are still controversial, but the authors believe they have a better understanding of the color perception process and the reason why Crane and Piantanida were successful.

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