Scientists are all set to harness the mechanism behind nocturnal geckos' unique ability to see colours at night, in making multifocal contact lenses and better cameras.
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have found that the key to the exceptional night vision of the nocturnal helmet gecko is a series of distinct concentric zones of different refractive powers.
The multifocal optical system in geckos is comprised of large cones, which was calculated to be over 350 times more sensitive than human cone vision at the human colour vision threshold.
"We were interested in the geckos because they - and other lizards - differ from most other vertebrates in having only cones in their retina. With the knowledge from the gecko eyes we might be able to develop more effective cameras and maybe even useful multifocal contact lenses," said project leader Dr. Lina Roth, from the Department of Cell and Organism Biology at the university.
The nocturnal geckos' multifocal optical system gives them an advantage because light of different ranges of wavelengths can focus simultaneously on the retina.
Another possible advantage of their optical structure is that their eyes allow them to focus on objects at different distances, which makes their multifocal eye to generate a sharp image for at least two different depths.
Roth said that geckos that are active during the day do not possess the distinct concentric zones and are considered monofocal.
The scientists also developed a new method to gather optical data from live animals without any harm to their modifications to the Hartmann-Shack wavefront sensor.
"Studies of animals with relatively large eyes, such as owls and cats, have included surgery and fixation of the head. In this study, we demonstrate that it is possible to obtain high-resolution wavefront measurements of small, unharmed gecko eyes without completely controlling the gaze or the accommodation of the animal eyes," said the authors.
The study has been published online in the Journal of Vision.