An integrative framework for the appraisal of coloration in nature

Kemp, Darrell J., Herberstein, Marie E., Fleishman, Leo J., Endler, John A., Bennett, Andrew T.D., Dyer, Adrian G., Hart, Nathan S., Marshall, Justin, and Whiting, Martin J. (2015) An integrative framework for the appraisal of coloration in nature. American Naturalist, 185 (6). pp. 705-724.

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Abstract

The world in color presents a dazzling dimension of phenotypic variation. Biological interest in this variation has burgeoned, due to both increased means for quantifying spectral information and heightened appreciation for how animals view the world differently than humans. Effective study of color traits is challenged by how to best quantify visual perception in nonhuman species. This requires consideration of at least visual physiology but ultimately also the neural processes underlying perception. Our knowledge of color perception is founded largely on the principles gained from human psychophysics that have proven generalizable based on comparative studies in select animal models. Appreciation of these principles, their empirical foundation, and the reasonable limits to their applicability is crucial to reaching informed conclusions in color research. In this article, we seek a common intellectual basis for the study of color in nature. We first discuss the key perceptual principles, namely, retinal photoreception, sensory channels, opponent processing, color constancy, and receptor noise. We then draw on this basis to inform an analytical framework driven by the research question in relation to identifiable viewers and visual tasks of interest. Consideration of the limits to perceptual inference guides two primary decisions: first, whether a sensory-based approach is necessary and justified and, second, whether the visual task refers to perceptual distance or discriminability. We outline informed approaches in each situation and discuss key challenges for future progress, focusing particularly on how animals perceive color. Given that animal behavior serves as both the basic unit of psychophysics and the ultimate driver of color ecology/evolution, behavioral data are critical to reconciling knowledge across the schools of color research.

Item ID: 42037
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1537-5323
Keywords: biophysics; neural processing; perception; optics; sensory ecology; vision; color signaling
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Macquarie University, National Science Foundation (NSF), University of Western Australia, Western Australian Government
Projects and Grants: ARC DP-140104107, ARC DP-110101421, ARC DP-0878968, ARC DP-130100015, ARC LP-140100691, NSF 1051796
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2015 15:34
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060801 Animal Behaviour @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0606 Physiology > 060601 Animal Physiology - Biophysics @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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