Modelling oil droplet absorption spectra and spectral sensitivities of bird cone photoreceptors

Nathan S. Hart*, Misha Vorobyev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

211 Citations (Scopus)


Birds have four spectrally distinct types of single cones that they use for colour vision. It is often desirable to be able to model the spectral sensitivities of the different cone types, which vary considerably between species. However, although there are several mathematical models available for describing the spectral absorption of visual pigments, there is no model describing the spectral absorption of the coloured oil droplets found in three of the four single cone types. In this paper, we describe such a model and illustrate its use in estimating the spectral sensitivities of single cones. Furthermore, we show that the spectral locations of the wavelengths of maximum absorbance (λmax) of the short- (SWS), medium- (MWS) and long- (LWS) wavelength-sensitive visual pigments and the cut-off wavelengths (λcut) of their respective C-, Y- and R-type oil droplets can be predicted from the λmax of the ultraviolet- (UVS)/violet- (VS) sensitive visual pigment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-392
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Bird vision
  • Cone photoreceptors
  • Microspectrophotometry
  • Oil droplets
  • Spectral sensitivity


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