Researchers at UWA have shown that Australian bull ants, just like humans, have three types of photoreceptors that are sensitive to different colours. This means that their colour forecast appears to be as good as ours. Unlike humans, however, bull ants can also see UV light. In addition, one of the bull ant species is known to be completely nocturnal, using their three different photoreceptor types at night, during light levels where humans are completely colour blind.
Jan Hemmi from UWA’s School of Animal Biology believes the reason behind the sophistication of the ant’s colour vision is their need to navigate. “In contrast to many other ant species, bull ants forage individually, do not lay pheromone trails like other ant species and use only vision to navigate,” he said.
The wider context of the research will find how miniaturisation affects animals’ sensory systems and the strategies animals employ to overcome the limitations imposed by miniaturisation. The research aims to inform scientists on the future design of more autonomous and effective robots and vehicles that have limited processing power. Thanks for keeping it clever, UWA.