The ways in which humans interpret colour is different from the ways in which animals do, according to an internationally recognised vision expert who will give a seminar at The University of Western Australia to mark global Brain Awareness Week.
From the University of Bristol's Ecology of Vision Group, Professor Julian Partridge argues that colour is not an inherent property of the object: it is a property of the nervous system of the animal perceiving the light. He challenges behavioural and evolutionary ecologists who, he claims, have failed to recognise that human colour perceptions are irrelevant for their studies.
"The vivid colours of many animals and plants are not only a source of inspiration to artists and poets, but are of great interest to evolutionary biologists," he said. "Ever since Darwin, biologists have used colour variation to test the theory of natural selection itself. In the last decade the hottest area of research has been sexual selection, Darwin's theory of how female mating preferences can lead to colourful ornaments such as the peacock's tail.
"Indeed, birds have been the most popular group for such research, but scientists in the Ecology of Vision Group believe that much of this work is fundamentally flawed."
Professor Partridge is an internationally recognised expert in the ecology of fish and bird vision who has participated in 16 research cruises. As a distinguished Visiting Teacher to UWA, he will support and extend his current research collaboration with UWA's Premier's Fellow Professor Shaun Collin.
Much of Professor Partridge's work involves underwater vision and the investigation of the vision of deep-sea species, but projects have also included work on bird, amphibian, crustacean and mammal vision.
He has published 76 papers and been cited 2,600 times.
Professor Partridge's seminar is open to the public and will be held in UWA's Jennifer Arnold Lecture Theatre, Zoology Building, Hackett Entrance 4, at 1pm on Tuesday 22 March to mark global Brain Awareness Week. RSVP to Kerry Knott on 6488 3424.