Niklaus, S., Albertini, S., Schnitzer, T. et al. 2020. Challenging a myth and misconception: Red-light vision in rats. Animals 10(3), 422.
Due to the lack of L-cones in the rodent retina, it is generally assumed that red light is invisible to rodents. Thus, red lights and red filter foils are widely used in rodent husbandry and experimentation allowing researchers to observe animals in an environment that is thought to appear dark to the animals. To better understand red-light vision in rodents, we assessed retinal sensitivity of pigmented and albino rats to far-red light by electroretinogram. We examined the sensitivity to red light not only on the light- but also dark-adapted retina, as red observation lights in husbandry are used during the dark phase of the light cycle. Intriguingly, both rods and cones of pigmented as well as albino rats show a retinal response to red light, with a high sensitivity of the dark-adapted retina and large electroretinogram responses in the mesopic range. Our results challenge the misconception of rodents being red-light blind. Researchers and housing facilities should rethink the use of red observation lights at night.