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Colour constancy in diurnal and nocturnal hawkmoths

  • Anna Balkenius
  • Almut Kelber
Publishing year: 2004
Language: English
Pages: 3307-3316
Publication/Series: Journal of Experimental Biology
Volume: 207
Issue: 19
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: The Company of Biologists Ltd

Abstract english

Diurnal and nocturnal hawkmoths have been shown to use colour vision for flower discrimination. Here, we present evidence that the nocturnal hawkmoth Deilephila elpenor and the diurnal hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum also have colour constancy. Colour constancy was shown in D. elpenor in two multiple-choice experiments with five different bluish colour patches under white and blue illumination and with five yellowish colour patches under white, blue and yellow illumination. The mechanism underlying colour constancy in both species was investigated in two dual-choice experiments. The choice behaviour is consistent with the use of the von Kries coefficient law. Although the moths have colour constancy, they react to the colour of the illumination. They make fewer choices when tested under the changed illumination, where they never receive a reward, compared with the training illumination. Even if colour constancy can be explained by a von Kries adaptation mechanism, the fact that the animals discriminate between different illuminations indicates that some additional process must be involved.


  • Zoology
  • colour constancy
  • colour vision
  • insect
  • hawkmoth
  • stellatarum
  • Macroglossum
  • Deilephila elpenor


  • Lund Vision Group
  • ISSN: 1477-9145
E-mail: anna [dot] balkenius [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Functional zoology

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