Tiger shark. Photo: Vic DeLeon/Flickr

PERTH (AUSTRALIA)- New research of the University of Western Australia’s School of Animal Biology and The Oceans Institute suggests that sharks are definitely color blind.

The study, published in the latest Royal Society Biology Letters, is the first to investigate the genetic basis and spectral tuning of the shark visual system.

The ramifications could be huge, helping to save both sharks and people.

Interaction human-shark
The work will have a major influence on human interactions with sharks according to co-author Nathan Hart, a research associate professor at the University of Western Australia’s School of Animal Biology and The Oceans Institute, told Discovery News.

Fishing gear
For instance it may enable us to design fishing gear that is more specific for target fish species and thus reduces unnecessary bycatch of sharks. Or it may help us to design equipment that is less attractive to sharks that may help to reduce attacks on humans. Like wetsuits or surfboards.

Genes
Building on a study from last year, Hart and colleagues isolated and sequenced genes encoding shark photopigments involved in vision. Photopigments are light-sensitive molecules. Through a biochemical process, they signal this detection of light to the rest of the visual system.

Photopigments are found in two places: rods and cones. The former type is more sensitive and is generally used under very dim light. The latter type is smaller and less sensitive, but is faster responding, applying more to brighter-light conditions.

Wobbegongs
The researchers determined that the studied sharks, in this case two wobbegong species, are cone monochromats. This means that the sharks only had one type of cone and one type of rod gene, supporting that they are colorblind. The findings strengthen earlier speculation about not only wobbegongs, but other shark species are also color blind.

Read more at MSNBC.