Challenges of studying visual perception of animals (#459)
Visual perception, in particular that of color, is a challenging, yet vital, task for researchers interested in the evolution of animal communication. Recently, many important methodological innovations and developments have been done, yet the area is still suffering from a lack of an integrated approach i.e combining the information of physiology and behavioural response of animals (rev. Kemp et al. 2015). Although many useful indirect methods e.g. tools for modelling the perception, have been developed, selection still acts through the behavioural responses alone. The ability of an organism to distinguish between different colours is irrelevant unless it actually uses that information to guide its responses. Another important point is that although our understanding of how animals perceive the world has improved over recent decades, we must next understand how this perception can vary, not just between species, but also within them. If there is indeed individual variation within species, our estimates of their visual capabilities may be misleading. Ultimately, individual variation is the raw material for natural selection, and thus a key ingredient to our understanding of perception as an adaptation. I will discuss how researchers working in the area should address these issues if our vision of a more integrated field is to be realised.