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Visual Ecology$
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Thomas W. Cronin, Sönke Johnsen, N. Justin Marshall, and Eric J. Warrant

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151847

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151847.001.0001

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Light and the Optical Environment

Light and the Optical Environment

(p.10) 2 Light and the Optical Environment
Visual Ecology

Thomas W. Cronin

Sönke Johnsen

N. Justin Marshall

Eric J. Warrant

Princeton University Press

This chapter explains how humans, and nearly all animals on Earth, witness astonishing variation in their optical environment. Brightness changes by many orders of magnitude each day, and colors also shift dramatically. Those animals that enter forests and especially the water experience even larger changes. Given this, it is surprising that nearly all the natural light on Earth ultimately comes from two sources, the sun and bioluminescence. A final source of light that is potentially relevant to vision is mechanoluminescence. In this process, light is produced by mechanical processes, including deformation (piezoluminescence), fracturing (triboluminescence), and crystallization (crystalloluminescence). The latter two have been suggested as being at least partially responsible for ambient light at deep-sea vents.

Keywords:   optical environment, light, brightness, colors, sun, bioluminescence, mechanoluminescence, deep-sea vents, ambient light

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