Sharks Are Color Blind, Study Finds

January 19, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

SHARKS' EYESIGHT: Researchers found that sharks are color blind. (Photos.com)
SHARKS' EYESIGHT: Researchers found that sharks are color blind. (Photos.com)
Sharks are color blind, a recent study by researchers from the University of Western Australia and the University of Queensland found.

Microspectrophotometry was used to examine 17 shark species’ retinas, measuring spectral absorbance and identifying cone visual pigments.

Cone visual pigments are molecules in cone cells used to detect colors. Different pigments are sensitive to different wavelengths of lights, thus detecting different colors.

It was found that sharks can see in a wide range of brightness, but because most species have no cone cells and others have only one kind of cone cell, they can’t differentiate colors.

“This new research on how sharks see may help to prevent attacks on humans and assist in the development of fishing gear that may reduce shark bycatch in long-line fisheries,” said Dr. Nathan Hart of the University of Western Australia, in a press release.

“Our study shows that contrast against the background, rather than color per se, may be more important for object detection by sharks,” Hart said.

“This may help us to design long-line fishing lures that are less attractive to sharks as well as to design swimming attire and surf craft that have a lower visual contrast to sharks and, therefore, are less ‘attractive’ to them.”

The study was published online in the journal Naturwissenschaften—The Science of Nature.