I wonder what my chinchillas see when they look at me, my phone or the TV in front of us. Are chinchillas color blind?
What is it about their eyesight that makes them different from us? Do they need lights on at night?
In this article, we’ll look into the pupils of chinchillas to discover if they are color blind.
Are Chinchillas Color Blind?
No. You will find places online telling you that chinchillas are color blind, but these rodents possess dichromatic vision. Compared to the trichromatic nature of the human eye, dichromatic vision is created by the limitation of one of the three cone cells.
Red/green and blue cones are present in chinchillas who can see color. Fewer blue cones contribute to the overall poor eyesight of chinchillas compared to humans and larger mammals.
The eyes and pupils of chinchillas provide them with color vision, but their senses of smell and hearing overpower and assist them much more than vision.
What Colors Can Chinchillas Not See?
It is not entirely certain what color chinchillas see better than others. Judging by the fact that they possess fewer blue cones, they do seem to have trouble discerning shades of blue.
Many rodents have an easier time distinguishing between yellows and greens, but red is a difficulty for them. Overall, the poor vision of chinchillas leaves many to wonder if they are color blind.
While some may suggest that dichromatic vision where only two cones instead of trichromatic vision with three cones in humans limits chinchillas from seeing colors, this is not true. Sure, they cannot distinguish all colors as well as we can, but they still see the world in color.
Do Chinchillas Have Good Eyesight?
No. The eyesight of many rodents including chinchillas are poor compared to larger mammals and humans .
Chinchillas rely on smell and hearing to overcome their limitation in size and strength in a wild world where plenty of predators would gladly consume them as a light meal.
Chinchillas depend on these factors more than eyesight:
- Pressure changes
- Jumping ability
Believe it or not, but the memory of a chinchillas allows them to track and remember threats or food and shelter locations instead of dispensing solely on vision to remember what or where they were looking for.
Are Chinchillas Nocturnal?
No. This is another area of debate of unreliable information available online. You may notice that chinchillas are very active at night leading you to believe that they are nocturnal.
Chinchillas are actually crepuscular animals similar to sugar gliders and other small mammals who are mostly active at dusk and dawn.
They like to sleep in the afternoon and late evening while remaining active towards the early morning hours and stirring around to wake you from your slumber.
This is why I keep my chinchillas in their enclosure further away from my bedroom door which is also closed. I am a light sleeper and their fun and games while I sleep doesn’t invite me to join in. I’d rather get my rest while they enjoy themselves.
Can Chinchillas See in the Dark?
Yes. Chinchillas are agile and aware of their surroundings without relying on their vision to save their lives or tell them where they’re going.
They could see enough in the dark to enjoy their crepuscular lifestyles which keeps them alert and energetic at night.
The vision of a chinchilla is excellent in the dark compared to humans, but their ability to see color is limited with dichromatic vision with 2 cones available compared to the 3 cones we are capable of utilizing in our trichromatic vision capabilities.
Do Chinchillas Have Good Hearing?
Yes. Chinchillas hear very well. They use their sensory perceptions to detect vibration along with pulsing sounds that alert them that something is out of the ordinary.
This prey animal needs to be sharp and able to detect sounds in a hearing range that is as follows:
- 50 Hz to 33 kHz
A chinchilla’s hearing and sensitivity to sound frequencies is slightly comparable to humans and more refined when it comes to hearing the tiniest of rustling or movement where hearing counts more for them in terms of survival than seeing.
Color Vision in Chinchillas
People used to think that chinchillas only had rods in their eyes, but new research has shown that this is not the case. Few animals have no cones at all in their retinas, and most nocturnal or crepuscular animals can see colors in some way.
A recent study using electroretinography on 6 chinchillas resulted in determining that there are both red/green and blue cones and rods. This suggests that chinchillas are animals that can see in two colors at the same time.
There were more red/green cones than blue cones, but it wasn’t clear what role they played in the chinchilla’s vision.
Can Chinchillas See Infrared or Ultraviolet Light?
Possibly. Infrared and ultraviolet light are not different types of light or radiation. They’re merely various wavelengths of normal light.
Ultraviolet light, for example, may be seen by rats. Scientists are able to inject infrared vision into lab rats’ eyes, but they do not do so normally on their own.
Several other rodents, including such mice, can sense UV light, thus chinchillas may be able to as well.
Can Chinchillas See in Bright Light?
Yes. Chinchillas have the ability to completely shut their pupils. You’ve probably noticed that when you’re in a bright environment, your pupil shrinks.
Chinchillas have gone one step further and can totally close their pupils, allowing them to sleep with their eyes open.
When it’s bright, they may block out the majority of the light. Their pupils are slit-shaped rather than spherical. This implies that even when their pupils are narrowed, they have a wide field of vision. Slit pupils are also useful for assessing distance.
Do Chinchillas Need Lights on at Night?
No. You do not need to keep any light on at night for chinchillas. They are active in the dark and can see, feel, touch and smell their way around while we are asleep.
Providing them with light may actually do more harm than good. A chinchilla needs to understand and regulate their active and rest periods with the light they perceive as daylight and darkness as night.
Keep a diurnal schedule for an animal like a chinchilla who is crepuscular and fully capable of enjoying activity even when it’s completely dark.
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