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WVXU: 'Scary' movie proves crabs can see different colors

UC biologist John Layne talks about his novel vision test for fiddler crabs

Cincinnati Public Radio's WVXU spoke to University of Cincinnati biologist John Layne about the clever color vision test he designed for small animals such as fiddler crabs in his lab.

Hands holding a fiddler crab over a tank.

A fiddler crab. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Layne, an associate professor in UC's College of Arts and Sciences, uses a stripped down LCD screen illuminated with an adjustable panel of green and blue light-emitting diodes. The LCD screen displays an image of a fast-approaching ball on a collision course with crabs placed in an arena in front of the screen. If the crabs can discern the two colors that make up the image, they react by running out of the way.

"The movie is very, very scary to a crab," Layne told WVXU. "Their reaction is not subtle. They will sprint really fast."

Layne shared his simple color-vision device with other researchers in an article published in the British Ecological Society journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution. Now he and his students are putting the crabs to the test to see what range of colors they can see.

Read more about Layne's research.

Featured image at top: UC biologist John Layne explains how he uses an LCD screen and a bank of light-emitting diodes to create his optical illusion video of a fast-approaching object for crabs that are placed in a glass arena in front of the screen. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

John Layne poses in front of a row of bookcases in his office.

UC biologist John Layne and his students are investigating the color vision of animals in his biology lab. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

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