Quantitative studies of animal colour constancy: using the chicken as a model

Peter Olsson, David Wilby, Almut Kelber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
208 Downloads (Pure)


Colour constancy is the capacity of visual systems to keep colour perception constant despite changes in the illumination spectrum. Colour constancy has been tested extensively in humans and has also been described in many animals. In humans, colour constancy is often studied quantitatively, but besides humans, this has only been done for the goldfish and the honeybee. In this study, we quantified colour constancy in the chicken by training the birds in a colour discrimination task and testing them in changed illumination spectra to find the largest illumination change in which they were able to remain colour-constant. We used the receptor noise limited model for animal colour vision to quantify the illumination changes, and found that colour constancy performance depended on the difference between the colours used in the discrimination task, the training procedure and the time the chickens were allowed to adapt to a new illumination before making a choice. We analysed literature data on goldfish and honeybee colour constancy with the same method and found that chickens can compensate for larger illumination changes than both. We suggest that future studies on colour constancy in non-human animals could use a similar approach to allow for comparison between species and populations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20160411
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1830
Early online date11 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


  • generalization
  • vision
  • visual adaptation
  • animal colour vision
  • behaviour
  • bird vision

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