Rare Mutation Lets 12% Of Women See 100 Times More Colors

Unless you have been living under a rock you have seen the viral debates about the color of a certain dress on the internet.

These discussions seem silly but we are reminded that vision is a tricky sense, especially when it comes to colors.

There are some people that can pick out a periwinkle ribbon rather than a cobalt blue ribbon.  Unfortunately, the rest of us weren’t born with that knack.

However there is a small group of woman who can see 100 times more colors than the normal person, it’s been proven.

Your science lesson for the day.

The human eyes have two types of light receptor cells that turn light into signals our brain understands.  This is how we are able to see things.

Rods are cells that give us low light vision, helpful for seeing at night. But they don’t help much with color vision. Which is the reason objects seem less colorful at night?

Cones require more light than rods but are the reason we see in color.”

Humans have three types of cones a red, green, and blue we can distinguish about 100 shades of color from each color wavelength.

With all the color combinations of the three cones, most average people can distinguish about a million different colors.

That’s a lot of colors, but there are some humans that see even more.

We’ve found out that humans have three cones but animals have even more.

Birds, fish, reptiles, insects, and even a few mammals see shades of four color cones which is referred to as tetrachromats.


Tetrachromats can distinguish between about 100 times more colors than the average person, around 100 million colors altogether.

Now imagine if humans could be tetrachromats. There is at least a small group of women who are!

These women were born with a genetic mutation that gives them an extra group of cones. They are able to distinguish more colors than the rest of us, like the difference between true yellow and celon yellow.

There are about 12% of all women who are said to be tetrachromats, most of them are of Northern European ancestry.

The only way to determine is by having your eye doctor test your eyes to see if you are a tetrachromat.  The woman that has the mutation can not see all the colors they ar supposed to, their brains may not recognize all the hues.

“Most of the things that we see as colored are manufactured by people who are trying to make colors that work for trichromats [a person with three cones],” explained University of Washington vision researcher Jay Neitz.

“It could be that our whole world is tuned to the world of the trichromat.”

For a look at how a  tetrachromat’s world might actually look, we have enlisted this artwork. The artist is Concetta Antico she is a  confirmed tetrachromat. Concetta explores her rare gift by painting it on the canvas.

Antico explained that for her, a leaf is never just plain dark “green.”

“Around the edge I’ll see orange or red or purple in the shadow; you might see dark green but I’ll see violet, turquoise, blue,” she explained.

“It’s like a mosaic of color.

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