Can Deer See Blue? (Explained)

It is a well-known fact that deer have a unique sense of vision. They tend to experience difficulty perceiving certain colors with long wavelengths due to their limited photoreceptors.

In contrast, deer have the ability to see other colors much better than other organisms can. The question now is, where does the color blue fall into all of this? Can deer see blue?

Can Deer See the Color Blue?

Deer can see the color blue with no problem. In fact, blue is one of the colors that deer see best. This is all thanks to the color blue’s short wavelengths.

Colors, as interpreted by our eyes, are actually wavelengths of light. Each form of light enters our eyes at a specific wavelength, allowing them to interpret them as colors via our eyes’ photoreceptors.

COLORWAVELENGTH
Red620 to 750 nm
Orange590 to 620 nm
Yellow570 to 590 nm
Green495 to 570 nm
Blue450 to 495 nm
Violet380 to 450 nm
nm – nanometers

Colors with long wavelengths include red and orange, while middle wavelength colors are composed of green and yellow. Lastly, short-wavelength colors are blue and violet.

There have been some debates about whether deer can see colors with middle wavelengths. However, research has consistently shown that deer can perceive colors of short wavelength, especially the color blue.

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What Makes Deer See Blue Better Than Other Colors?

There are various biological factors to consider when it comes to why deer can see the color blue better than most colors.

Mainly, deer have an enhanced ability to perceive the color blue because of their cone cells and the lack of an ultraviolet filter.

Cone Cells

The deer see blue with no trouble because their eyes have blue cone cells. Cone cells are photoreceptors responsible for the perception of color.

These cells, otherwise known as cones, are the eye’s photoreceptors in charge of vision in bright settings and the perception of color. There are three types of cones:

First, there are red cones that are responsible for the eye’s ability to detect colors of long wavelengths, such as red and orange.

Second, there are green cones responsible for detecting green and yellow – colors of medium wavelength. Lastly, there are blue cones that enable the eye to see colors with short wavelengths, such as blue and violet.

Humans have all three cones, enabling our eyes to see the entire visible spectrum of colors with wavelengths 450 to 620 nm. This, in turn, allows us to interpret light and see all colors.

However, deer only have a blue and green cone. This makes them dichromatic and limits them to see colors in the spectrum with middle to low wavelengths or 495 and below.

Essentially speaking, deer are red-green colorblind. Usually, the lack of one sense makes the brain compensate by increasing the sensitivity of the other senses.

So it would be safe to assume that because the deer don’t have a red cone cell, the cone cells it does have (blue and green) are heightened, thus increasing its ability to recognize the color blue.

Ultraviolet Filter

Can Deer See Blue?

Their ability to see colors with shorter wavelengths can also be attributed to their eyes not having ultraviolet or UV filters.

Many organisms, including humans, have UV filters in their eyes to protect these organs from the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays by blocking them.

Because they don’t have it, deer cannot block UV rays and are susceptible to its harmful effects.

On the other hand, the lack of a UV filter allows them to see UV light and lights with shorter wavelengths (like blue) up to 20 times better than humans.

How Does The Ability to See Blue Help Deer?

The deer’s ability to see blue isn’t just about their ability to perceive the color. Their eyes’ ability to detect these wavelengths of light is crucial for their day-to-day activities and survival.

Crepuscular Nature

Deer usually have a crepuscular or nocturnal nature as they are active right before the sun rises for the day and when it sets for the night.

Given that, they are used to functioning during twilight hours when the most significant source of light is blue light.

As their eyes are able to see blue and blue light better, they have no problem going about their business despite the low-light setting.

This is also heightened by the increased number of rod cells in their eyes. These rods are responsible for vision in settings where little light is available.

Detection of Threats and Predators

Can Deer See Blue?

Their ability to detect low wavelength lights can also help them look out for any threats or predators lurking their way.

Predators have been known to reflect the light of short wavelengths off their pelts. This enables the deer to detect their presence by looking out for these reflections.

Lots of people also sport blue jeans when heading out to the woods to go hunting.

While blue jeans are certainly a convenient and comfortable choice, the blue color can actually allow deer to see the hunters wearing them much better. This gives deer a chance to escape before the hunters even spot them.

Given this, using shades of blue when hunting deer is greatly discouraged. While you’re at it, avoid anything UV brightened, too, as these short-wavelength colors and lights can help the deer spot you even in the dark.

Conclusion

Deer have long been established to have a unique set of eyes. While they might be limited in their ability to detect long-wavelength colors, they make up for it with their heightened ability to see the color blue and other low wavelength colors and lights.

For the deer, this is more than just color as the ability to see blue. This ability serves by giving it great vision by utilizing blue light in dark hours and the ability to detect danger before danger finds it.

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