Crepuscular and nocturnal illumination and its effects on color perception by the nocturnal hawkmoth Deilephila elpenor.


Journal Article

Recent studies have shown that certain nocturnal insect and vertebrate species have true color vision under nocturnal illumination. Thus, their vision is potentially affected by changes in the spectral quality of twilight and nocturnal illumination, due to the presence or absence of the moon, artificial light pollution and other factors. We investigated this in the following manner. First we measured the spectral irradiance (from 300 to 700 nm) during the day, sunset, twilight, full moon, new moon, and in the presence of high levels of light pollution. The spectra were then converted to both human-based chromaticities and to relative quantum catches for the nocturnal hawkmoth Deilephila elpenor, which has color vision. The reflectance spectra of various flowers and leaves and the red hindwings of D. elpenor were also converted to chromaticities and relative quantum catches. Finally, the achromatic and chromatic contrasts (with and without von Kries color constancy) of the flowers and hindwings against a leaf background were determined under the various lighting environments. The twilight and nocturnal illuminants were substantially different from each other, resulting in significantly different contrasts. The addition of von Kries color constancy significantly reduced the effect of changing illuminants on chromatic contrast, suggesting that, even in this light-limited environment, the ability of color vision to provide reliable signals under changing illuminants may offset the concurrent threefold decrease in sensitivity and spatial resolution. Given this, color vision may be more common in crepuscular and nocturnal species than previously considered.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Johnsen, S; Kelber, A; Warrant, E; Sweeney, AM; Widder, EA; Lee, RL; Hernández-Andrés, J

Published Date

  • March 2006

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 209 / Pt 5

Start / End Page

  • 789 - 800

PubMed ID

  • 16481568

Pubmed Central ID

  • 16481568

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1477-9145

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-0949

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1242/jeb.02053


  • eng