Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bright eyes: Study finds reindeers' eyes change colour with Arctic seasons

30.10.2013
Researchers have discovered the eyes of Arctic reindeer change colour through the seasons from gold to blue, adapting to extreme changes of light levels in their environment and helping detect predators.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded team from UCL (University College London), and the University of Tromsø, Norway, showed that the colour change helps reindeer to see better in the continuous daylight of summer and continuous darkness of Arctic winters, by changing the sensitivity of the retina to light.

Arctic reindeer, like many animals, have a layer of tissue in the eye called the tapetum lucidum (TL) which lies behind the retina and reflects light back through it to enhance night vision.

By changing its colour the TL reflects different wavelengths of light.

In the bright light of summer the TL in Arctic reindeer is gold, similar to many other mammals, which reflects most light back directly through the retina.

However by winter it has changed to a deep blue which reflects less light out of the eye.

This change scatters more light through photoreceptors at the back of the eye, increasing the sensitivity of the retina in response to the limited winter light

The team believes this would be an advantage in the prolonged murk of winter, allowing reindeer to more easily detect moving predators and forage.

Lead researcher Professor Glen Jeffery from UCL, said: "This is the first time a colour change of this kind has been shown in mammals. By changing the colour of the TL in the eye reindeer have flexibility to cope better with the extreme differences between light levels in their habitat between seasons.

"This gives them an advantage when it comes to spotting predators, which could save their lives."

The colour change may be caused by pressure within the eyes. In winter pressure in the reindeers' eyes is increased, probably caused by permanent pupil dilation, which prevents fluid in the eyeball from draining naturally. This compresses the TL, reducing the space between collagen in the tissue and thus reflecting the shorter wavelengths of the blue light common in Arctic winters.

Previous work from Professor Jeffery and Norwegian colleagues from Tromso had shown that Arctic reindeer eyes can also see ultraviolet, which is abundant in Arctic light but invisible to humans, and that they use this to find food and see predators.

The blue reflection from the winter eye is likely to favour ultra-violet sensitivity.

"Shifting mirrors: adaptive changes in retinal reflections to winter darkness in Arctic reindeer" is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, can be viewed online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2013.2451 from October 30.

Notes to editors

Images available on request

Contact:

Chris Melvin, BBSRC Media Officer, 01793 414694, chris.melvin@bbsrc.ac.uk

About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £467M (2012-2013), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes

About UCL (University College London)

Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine.

We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by our performance in a range of international rankings and tables. According to the Thomson Scientific Citation Index, UCL is the second most highly cited European university and the 15th most highly cited in the world.

UCL has nearly 27,000 students from 150 countries and more than 9,000 employees, of whom one third are from outside the UK. The university is based in Bloomsbury in the heart of London, but also has two international campuses – UCL Australia and UCL Qatar. Our annual income is more than £800 million.

http://www.ucl.ac.uk | Follow us on Twitter @uclnews | Watch our YouTube channel YouTube.com/UCLTV

About University of Tromsø

UIT The Arctic University of Norway is the northernmost university in the world. Its location on the edge of the Arctic implies a mission. Climate change, the exploration of Arctic resources and environmental threats are topics of great public concern, and which the University of Tromsø takes special interest in. Our key research focuses on the polar environment, climate research, indigenous people, peace and conflict transformation, telemedicine, medical biology, space physics, fishery science, marine biosprospecting, linguistics and computational chemistry.

Chris Melvin | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?
17.11.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care

nachricht Microbial resident enables beetles to feed on a leafy diet
17.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>