University of Queensland to determine how clownfish see in new research

“Our fish are trained to poke the UV dots that display and get a food reward, but they only get it when they accurately poke the right dot.”

Of 416 trials, 360 saw the fish correctly peck the UV target.

Dr Powell said they can then measure exactly what wavelengths the fish can see, which gives them an idea about what they use that vision for in the wild.

“There seems to be indications, and we’re still researching this, that their white stripes can be more and less reflective of UV light,” he said.

“That seems to be something to do with dominance signalling, so that’s what we’re looking into with them.”

The researchers came up with the relatively simple experiment design almost out of necessity, needing a simple way to measure UV interaction that could be immersed in a fish tank.


They used commercially available UV-emitting LEDs, which are more commonly used at the dentist to harden dental resin.

Although Dr Powell said it was unlikely the tech would make the jump to human televisions any time soon.

“You’d have to wear sunglasses and sunscreen while watching it, and the resolution is quite low – eight by 12 pixels in a four- by five-centimetre area – so don’t expect to be watching Netflix in ultraviolet anytime soon,” he said.

Dr Karen Cheney said the technology will now allow researchers to expand their knowledge about a range of animals which are known or suspected to see UV light.

“Bees use UV patterns on flowers to locate nectar, for example, and fish can recognise individuals using UV facial patterns,” she said.

“This technology is allowing us to understand how animals see the world, helping answer significant questions about animal behaviour.”

The research has been published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

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