Anyone with a pet has probably noticed them staring at what seems to be nothing at all from time to time, but don't worry, they aren't detecting ghosts. (Well, maybe they are detecting ghosts, who can say?)
A study suggests that mammals may be able to see UV light, a form of rays that appear invisible to the human eye thanks to a UV light-blocking lens.
Other animals, including bees and reptiles, have been known to possess the capability to witness these rays for some time, but now researchers are saying that this ability might extend to cats and dogs as well.
Ron Douglas, the study's leader and a biologist at City University London, said in an interview with Live Science:
"Nobody ever thought these animals could see in ultraviolet, but in fact, they do."
The study relied on the use of several sets of eyes from animals that had passed and were donated by various zoos, veterinarians, and science labs. Eyes of mammals, including hedgehogs, pandas, and monkeys, were dissected and used to measure how much light reached their retina through their lenses.
Their findings revealed that several animals, including dogs and cats, are born with lenses that allow some UV light to penetrate through, suggesting that they may be able to see ultraviolet light.
The ability to see UV rays serves a variety of purposes for different animals. Bees use the light to find their way to nectar, and snow-dwelling reindeer might use it to spot polar bears that would otherwise blend into their surroundings.
Other than increasing their ability to see well in the dark, it's still unclear what purpose the detection of UV light has for domestic pets, such as cats and dogs.
Have you ever caught your pet starting at an "invisible" object? Tell us in the comments!
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