Cone-based vision of rats for ultraviolet and visible lights

J Exp Biol. 2001 Jul;204(Pt 14):2439-46.


Rats (Rattus norvegicus) have two classes of cone, one containing an ultraviolet (UV)-sensitive photopigment and the other housing a pigment maximally sensitive in the middle (M) wavelengths of the visible spectrum. The manner in which signals from these two cone types contribute to rat vision was investigated through recordings of a gross electrical potential (the electroretinogram, ERG) and behavioral discrimination tests. Spectral sensitivity functions obtained from both types of measurement indicate clear contributions from each of the cone classes, but there is a marked enhancement of the relative sensitivity to UV light in the behavioral index; for instance, under some photopic test conditions, rats are approximately equally sensitive to middle-wavelength and UV lights. In adaptation tests, thresholds for UV and M lights were found to be differentially elevated in the presence of chromatic adapting backgrounds, thus providing the possibility that signals from the two cones could be used by the rat visual system to support color discriminations. Evidence of dichromatic color vision in the rat was subsequently obtained from tests of wavelength discrimination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Ocular / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Electroretinography
  • Light*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Retinal Cone Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*