Visual wavelength discrimination by the loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta.
Marine turtles are visual animals, yet we know remarkably little about how they use this sensory capacity. In this study, our purpose was to determine whether loggerhead turtles could discriminate between objects on the basis of color. We used light-adapted hatchlings to determine the minimum intensity of blue (450 nm), green (500 nm), and yellow (580 nm) visual stimuli that evoked a positive phototaxis (the phototaxis "threshold" [pt]). Juvenile turtles were later trained to associate each color (presented at 1 log unit above that color's pt) with food, then to discriminate between two colors (the original rewarded stimulus plus one of the other colors, not rewarded) when both were presented at 1 log unit above their pt. In the crucial test, turtles were trained to choose between the rewarded and unrewarded color when the colors varied in intensity. All turtles learned that task, demonstrating color discrimination. An association between blue and food was acquired in fewer trials than between yellow and food, perhaps because some prey of juvenile loggerheads in oceanic surface waters (jellyfishes, polyps, and pelagic gastropods) are blue or violet in color.
Young, M; Salmon, M; Forward, R
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