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Arcadia Support Portal :: What does the term tetrachromatic mean?

What does the term tetrachromatic mean?

A. Reptiles, amphibians and birds all have a fourth cone cell in the eye. This simply means that they can see in the UV spectrum. UVA is essential to wellbeing of captive reptiles. We know beyond all real doubt that reptiles, amphibians and birds are tetrachromats. Without exposure to UVA the animal simply cannot see as nature intended it to. Humans can see around one million colours, tetrachromats with addition of the fourth cone cell can see 100 million colours!! They can see UV, this is how they decide how and where to regulate in the wild. Even if the diet is strong and fulfilling most of the vitamin and hormonal needs the animal would be able to see gradients of UV and adjust any imbalance in the body through natural regulation.

As an example the colour yellow to a green Iguana is thought to be bright red, this would obviously help the animal find fruits and flowers hidden in the forest canopy. Insects too have fluorescent patches on the external surface that would appear to a tetrachromats as an almost neon sign saying “food here”. It is also thought that there are similar flouro patches on reptile skin and birds feathers that would display sex, health and breeding readiness to other reptile.

It is the UVA wavelength that activates the normal sight of a tetrachromats. It is essential that UVA is balanced in conjunction with UVB in reptile tubes. If provided for properly you should expect to see better feeding and breeding results and much less stressful animals. The effects of UVA on reptiles is only just starting to be picked apart, I expect in the years to come we will all be shocked at how many effects it has on the biology of reptiles and birds.


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