Ultraviolet light and visual behaviour in the three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus

Philip Boulcott, Victoria Braithwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The ability of various vertebrates to perceive visual information in the ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum (300-400 nm) is receiving increasing interest. To date, many of these studies have concentrated on the role of ultraviolet perception in mate choice, yet there are several ways in which the ability to perceive ultraviolet information may affect other behaviours. Until now, it has been widely assumed that colour in the three-spined stickleback can be quantified by methods appropriate to the human visual system. However, evidence does exist that suggests that, in some populations, sticklebacks are capable of perceiving ultraviolet wavelengths. Using a behavioural technique, we tested the ability of the stickleback to perceive ultraviolet light under full-spectrum conditions to establish whether such wavelengths are utilised within their normal behavioural repertoire. We tested this ability by assessing whether subjects could locate hidden food in a foraging task where food position was indicated by the position of landmarks. These landmarks differed only in their ultraviolet content, appearing identical when viewed across the human visible region of the spectrum. We found that sticklebacks were able to use ultraviolet perception to locate a foraging patch under full-spectrum conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)736-743
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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