, Volume 141, Issue 1, pp 47-52

Wavelength discrimination in the ‘visible’ and ultraviolet spectrum by pigeons

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Using operant conditioning methods, the pigeon's wavelength discrimination abilities were assessed in two experiments to generate discrimination functions. Both these functions showed three minima at 460, 530 and 595 nm. In the second wavelength discrimination experiment, extending measurements into the UV spectral region, pigeons also maintained good discrimination between wavelengths within the UV range tested. A fourth minimum was indicated at the lower end of the spectral range tested (365–385 nm). The results point to the complexity of the pigeon's chromatic system, which must be at least tetrachromatic, probably pentachromatic.

We thank the technical staff of the Psychology Department at Durham University for their assistance and. in particular, Mr. D. Harper who collected some of the data in the second experiment. Mrs. C. Thompson gave us much helpful advice about the computer programming. The work was, in part, supported by an SRC Research Grant to J.D. Delius; J. Emmerton received a Durham University Research Studentship. The paper was prepared while the authors were supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft through its Sonderforschungsbereich 114.