The Impact of the Spectral Radiation Environment on the Maximum Absorption Wavelengths of Human Vision and Other Species

Samuel Konatham* (Corresponding Author), Javier Martín-Torres, Maria-Paz Zorzano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Since the earliest development of the eye (and vision) around 530 million years ago (Mya), it has evolved, adapting to different habitats, species, and changing environmental conditions on Earth. We argue that a radiation environment determined by the atmosphere played a determining role in the evolution of vision, specifically on the human eye, which has three vision regimes (photopic-, scotopic-, and mesopic vision) for different illumination conditions. An analysis of the irradiance spectra, reaching the shallow ocean depths, revealed that the available radiation could have determined the bandwidth of the precursor to vision systems, including human vision. We used the radiative transfer model to test the existing hypotheses on human vision. We argue that, once on the surface, the human photopic (daytime) and scotopic (night-time) vision followed different evolutionary directions, maximum total energy, and optimum information, respectively. Our analysis also suggests that solar radiation reflected from the moon had little or no influence on the evolution of scotopic vision. Our results indicate that, apart from human vision, the vision of only a few birds, rodents, and deep-sea fish are strongly correlated to the available radiation within their respective habitats.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1337
Number of pages15
Issue number12
Early online date3 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding: This research was funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, The County Administrative Board of Norrbotten and Luleå University of Technology. M.-P.Z.’s research at CAB was partially supported by the Spanish State Research Agency (AEI), project no. MDM-2017-0737 Unidad de Excelencia ‘María de Maeztu’- Centro de Astrobiología (INTA-CSIC).
Acknowledgments: The authors acknowledge support from the Wallenberg Foundation (KAW 2016.0346).


  • human vision
  • atmosphere
  • photopic vision
  • scotopic vision
  • evolution
  • astrobiology


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